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101  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / SCOTUS overrules 9th circuit on "Innocence of Muslims" on: May 19, 2015, 08:28:51 AM
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/05/18/court-sides-with-youtube-on-anti-muslim-film-that-sparked-violence-in-the-middle-east/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Firewire_Morning_Test&utm_campaign=Firewire%20Morning%20Edition%20Recurring%20v2%202015-05-19
102  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Anti-BDS measures gaining ground on: May 19, 2015, 08:16:51 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/05/18/illinois-passes-historic-anti-bds-bill-as-congress-mulls-similar-moves/
103  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Two gay men campaigning against same sex marrigage referendum in Ireland on: May 18, 2015, 01:22:12 PM
http://www.mercatornet.com/conjugality/view/two-gay-men-campaigning-against-same-sex-marriage-in-ireland/16168
104  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Al Sis reinvents himself as bulwark against terrorism on: May 18, 2015, 01:17:39 PM
Egypt’s Leader Reinvents Himself as Bulwark Against Terrorism
Abdel Fatah Al Sisi, criticized for cracking down on his Islamist opponents, is embraced for his stand against Islamic State
By Tamer El-Ghobashy
May 18, 2015 5:30 a.m. ET
WSJ

CAIRO—The specter of an expanding Islamic State has alarmed leaders across the Middle East. But for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, that threat has become an opportunity to transform himself from an international outcast to an ally in the regional war against terrorism.

Since Mr. Sisi came to power in a coup two years ago, his government has criminalized street protests, sentenced hundreds to death in mass trials and, according to the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, imprisoned some 40,000 political opponents and their supporters, drawing widespread international criticism.

He also has declared his main political opponent, the Muslim Brotherhood, a terrorist organization, despite its explicit denunciation of violence, putting the popular Islamist organization in the same category as avowedly militant groups such as Islamic State and al Qaeda.

On Saturday, a special court set up in the police academy in Cairo sentenced to death ousted President Mohammed Morsi, the former Muslim Brotherhood leader, and more than 100 other leaders and members of the organization, underscoring the breadth of Mr. Sisi’s crackdown.
Egypt's deposed President Mohammed Morsi in a defendant's cage as a judge sentences him and more than 100 others to death on Saturday. ENLARGE
Egypt's deposed President Mohammed Morsi in a defendant's cage as a judge sentences him and more than 100 others to death on Saturday. Illustration: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

The Egyptian leader’s tough response to the emergence of Islamic State coupled with Iran’s expanding sway in traditionally Sunni Muslim spheres of influence have boosted the 60-year-old retired army general’s stock in the region as a bulwark against extremism.

At the same time, his declarations about the need to “revolutionize” Islam to increase tolerance in the Arab and Islamic world have helped his image in Washington, opening the way for the Obama administration’s cautious embrace of the Egyptian leader.

The administration lifted a ban on arms sales to Cairo in March and promised to restore a $1.3 billion aid package, an annual commitment set forth in the 1979 Israel-Egypt peace treaty.

The aid was withheld after Mr. Morsi—Egypt’s first freely elected president—was deposed in a military coup led by Mr. Sisi in 2013, while he was still defense minister and head of the armed forces.

In renewing normal aid ties, National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said, the U.S. would seek to balance vital U.S.-Egyptian security ties with meaningful Egyptian political overhauls.

A State Department official on Sunday said the mass death sentences were deeply troubling.

    ‘‘Sisi played this card very well by convincing the administration that the main objective is to fight terrorism. A common enemy brings the countries together again.’’
    —Khalil al-Anani, Middle East scholar

“We have consistently spoken out against the practice of mass trials and sentences, which are conducted in a manner that is inconsistent with Egypt’s international obligations and the rule of law,” the official said.

Despite criticism of his methods, Mr. Sisi’s strategy of emphasizing the threat of terrorism, while selectively committing resources to fighting it, has paid off, said Khalil al-Anani, a Middle East scholar at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

“Sisi played this card very well by convincing the administration that the main objective is to fight terrorism,” Mr. Anani said. “A common enemy brings the countries together again.”

The cautious U.S. embrace of Mr. Sisi hasn’t appeared to markedly shift perceptions of him in Egypt.

To his supporters, he has brought welcome stability to Egypt following the upheavals of the Arab Spring, the ouster of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak and the brief, turbulent presidential tenure of Mr. Morsi.

The death sentence imposed on Mr. Morsi on Saturday is subject to review by the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s highest religious authority, whose opinion isn’t legally binding but is often adopted by the court. A final verdict will be delivered June 2 but will be open to appeal, which can take years in Egypt’s clogged judicial system.

The former Egyptian president was among 106 members and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood sentenced to death on Saturday, including the group’s spiritual guide, Mohammed Badie, and prominent Islamic scholar, Youssef al-Qaradawi, who is based in Qatar.

If the verdicts are confirmed, the entire top leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood will be facing either life in prison or execution stemming from trials that began under Mr. Sisi’s leadership. The sentences represent the most comprehensive crackdown on the group since the modern Egyptian state was founded.

In statements released from the group’s media offices overseas, the Brotherhood condemned the judge’s decision, calling it illegitimate and politically driven.

Amnesty International called the trial “grossly unfair,” saying “the death penalty has become the favorite tool for the Egyptian authorities to purge the political opposition.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a close ally of Mr. Morsi, slammed the court’s decision and criticized Western governments for not speaking forcibly enough against the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

The defendants were accused of breaking out of Wadi al Natroun prison days after the 2011 uprising began. Mr. Morsi and other senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood had been ordered jailed by then-President Mubarak, whose rule was being undermined by massive street protests that resulted in his resignation 18 days after they began on Jan. 25, 2011.

Two days after being detained, the prison was raided by armed groups who clashed with jail guards, beating the authorities into retreat.

In a phone call to Al Jazeera Arabic broadcast on the day of his escape, a panicked Mr. Morsi is heard saying he and his Muslim Brotherhood colleagues were freed by unknown men in both prison uniforms and in civilian clothes, and urged authorities to instruct him on how to proceed, vowing not to leave the prison without official permission.

For his domestic critics, the warming U.S. attitude to Mr. Sisi has potentially damaging consequences for peaceful opponents of his government. They worry that it will give Egyptian authorities further license to treat the nonviolent opposition as harshly as those armed militants who have carried out sporadic attacks against police and security forces in Egypt.

“We are as exposed as we’ve ever been without even Western rhetoric suggesting that human rights in Egypt are a major concern,” said one activist whose colleagues are serving prison terms.

Hazem Abdel Azim, a top official in the Egyptian leader’s presidential campaign last year, announced on April 27 that he was withdrawing from politics indefinitely.

“I feel the political climate isn’t less dangerous than Mubarak’s days if one speaks freely,” Mr. Abdel Azim tweeted, referring to the long periods of authoritarian rule by the ex-Egyptian president. He didn’t respond to requests for further comment.

In Washington, congressional supporters of the Egyptian leader said he is a mainstay of international efforts to combat terrorism.

“They still have a way to go with their democratic reforms, but America needs strong allies like Egypt in the region,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R., Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

Other members of Congress, however, voiced doubts over the wisdom of renewed arms sales to Mr. Sisi’s government.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), co-author of a provision in the 2015 appropriations bill that now links continued U.S. military aid for Egypt to its progress on improving human rights and democracy, said this isn’t the time to hand Egypt a blank check.

“The United States should defend principles of democracy and human rights, and President al-Sisi’s government has systematically and flagrantly trampled on both,” Mr. Leahy said in an email.

Mr. Anani, the Middle East scholar, said he believes there is a long-term cost for both Egypt and its allies in making the military campaign against Islamist militants their central focus.

“It is back to the old days where security trumps everything else,” he said. “It is a shortsighted policy that can become counterproductive, increasing the kind of extremism that has created this regional instability.”

—Dahlia Kholaif in Cairo
contributed to this article.

Write to Tamer El-Ghobashy at tamer.el-ghobashy@wsj.com
105  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / FYI: Crowd prevents arrest on: May 18, 2015, 01:00:41 PM
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/05/17/cop-caught-on-video-trying-to-handcuff-a-teen-girl-but-when-an-angry-crowd-gathers-he-reacts-in-a-shocking-way/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Firewire&utm_campaign=Firewire%20-%20HORIZON%205-18-15%20Monday%20with%20Malkin
106  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China: Lawsuit seeks damage for pollution on: May 18, 2015, 12:48:45 PM

By
Te-Ping Chen
May 18, 2015 4:54 a.m. ET
WSJ

BEIJING—An environmental dispute involving a stone quarry in southeastern China marks the first test of a new Beijing effort to use the courts to help clean up the country’s massive pollution problems.

In a lawsuit that began trial on Friday in a court in China’s southeastern Fujian province, environmental groups accused four mine operators of stripping a mountainous area of trees and causing about two hectares’ worth of damage. They are suing the defendants to either restore the area themselves or pay 1.1 million yuan ($177,000) for a third party to do so. For their part, the defendants have said that the group doesn’t have the right to sue and disputed the sum requested, saying that the way it was calculated was flawed. They also said the damage caused wasn’t intentional.

Experts say the case, brought by environmental groups Friends of the Earth and Fujian Green Home, is the country’s first public-interest suit lodged under its new environmental law. Revised for the first time since 1989, the revamped environmental law came into effect in January and gave nonprofit groups greater ability to sue on behalf of the public for environmental damages.

While Chinese official statistics show that regulators have pursued more criminal cases against alleged polluters, experts say private lawsuits haven’t yet caught up. To help private citizens, separate new rules that went into effect in May have made filing private lawsuits easier. Already, a Chinese court earlier this month accepted a series of suits from tourism groups seeking 40 million yuan in damages from ConocoPhillips over alleged damages from the 2011 Bohai Bay oil spill in the waters off northeastern China. ConocoPhillips didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The test in the case in Fujian is whether more nonprofit groups will be encouraged to make use of the new rules enacted in January despite remaining hurdles that include high fees and lack of experienced legal personnel. “Just because a group is qualified to sue doesn’t mean they have the ability to bring a suit, much less that they have that aspiration,” said environmental lawyer Xia Jun. “The law can’t force people to sue.”

In 2014, the number of criminal actions related to the environment totaled about 16,000 cases, according to a government judicial work report released in March. The official news agency Xinhua said that marked a rise of more than eight times from 2013. The number of civil cases involving damages from pollution rose by 51% to 3,331, the agency said, though Zhang Bao of the Central South University School of Law said that the numbers have fluctuated in recent years without an obvious increase.

Prior to the new environmental law, courts rarely accepted environmental suits brought by nonprofits. Even when government-backed groups such as the All-China Environment Federation brought suits, they faced serious barriers. In 2013, the federation attempted to lodge eight cases, and all were rejected by the courts, it said.

Since the new law went into effect in January, the number of cases accepted by the courts on environmental issues has remained in the single digits, environmentalists say. In part, that is because few nonprofits have been trying, said Wang Canfa, founder of the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims. “Before, some expected that there’d be a great surge in cases. In fact, that didn’t happen,” he said.

The new law requires nonprofits to have worked in the environmental sector for five years and to be registered with the government. According to the government, several hundred nonprofits are eligible to bring suits under the new law.

Bringing a case can rack up thousands of dollars in legal bills—a challenge in a climate in which nonprofits’ ability to fundraise is already strictly curtailed. Courts often require plaintiffs to hire independent bodies to help appraise the monetary value of the environmental damage claimed, compounding the expense. The number of nonprofits with the interest and ability to bring such suits, said Mr. Xia, the environmental lawyer, is “pitifully small.”

A traditional Chinese reluctance to bring lawsuits is also a factor, says Ge Feng of Friends of Nature. The group recently set up a 300,000 yuan legal fund backed by the Alibaba Foundation, which was founded by e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. , to help support lawsuits.

Lawyers said they were cautiously optimistic about the outcome of the case in Fujian, saying that several of the individuals being sued had already been sentenced to prison stints of about a year.

In addition to empowering nonprofits to sue polluters, the government has also set up hundreds of environmental courts specializing in the issue across the country in recent years. Many environmental courts have languished, though, with some judges even transferred to assist with regular cases due to their low caseload, lawyers say.

—Lilian Lin contributed to this article.

Write to Te-Ping Chen at te-ping.chen@wsj.com
107  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Lindsay Graham: Much more is needed to stop Iran from going nuke on: May 18, 2015, 12:16:51 PM

By
Lindsey Graham
May 17, 2015 5:53 p.m. ET
141 COMMENTS

The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act is now on its way to the White House for a reluctant signature by President Obama. He was forced to accept, by overwhelming votes in both chambers, Congress’s constitutional role in reviewing any nuclear deal with Iran and the lifting of any congressionally imposed sanctions. Now the hardest work begins.

The president must either negotiate an agreement that will permanently prevent an untrustworthy Iranian regime from acquiring nuclear weapons—or walk away. If he instead commits to a plan that will lead to a nuclear Iran, Congress must stop it.

Iran is the greatest sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East and the world. It is openly committed to the destruction of Israel. It sits at the nexus of nearly every major global threat: the Syrian crisis, the rise of ISIS, the resurgence of al Qaeda, the crisis in Iraq that threatens gains won with U.S. blood, the chaos in Yemen that is adding to the threat of an all-out regional war, and renewed weapons trade with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

To allow this pariah nation to acquire nuclear weapons and the ability to deploy them against us and our allies—and to share them with radical Islamic organizations—would constitute an incalculable threat to our national security and an existential threat to Israel. It would set off a nuclear-arms race that would virtually guarantee a regional war with global implications.

Alarmingly, our negotiators and the Iranians have offered wildly differing interpretations of the negotiated framework. On every principle, Iran insists it will never accept our terms. Serious questions remain about how this deal can prevent a nuclear Iran.

Will international sanctions be lifted before proof that Iran is in compliance? How and when would sanctions be restored if there are violations? Can we have a good faith agreement with a regime that for decades has lied and cheated, and still has never come clean about its past efforts to weaponize nuclear technology? Will Iran be required to demonstrate changed behavior—with respect to its nuclear ambitions and its sponsorship of terrorism?

I am proposing eight principles to ensure we get the right answers and achieve a sound, enforceable deal.

• Iran must not be allowed an enrichment capability greater than the practical needs to supply one commercial reactor. The Iranians should have access to peaceful nuclear power, but the infrastructure should be aligned to support the needs of a single nuclear reactor.

• Closure of all hardened and formerly secret sites. Iran must come clean on all outstanding issues raised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), particularly concerning the possible military dimensions of Iran’s civilian nuclear program. The history of Iran’s nuclear program has been marked by deception. Sites like Fordow have no role in an Iranian civilian program. Iran must account for the full inventory of centrifuges, production facilities for components, the total number of components, assembly workshops and storage depots for centrifuges.

• Anytime, anywhere inspections of all Iranian military and nonmilitary facilities. Iran shouldn’t have veto power over when inspectors visit its facilities, including the ability of independent parties to monitor and report on Iran’s compliance.

• Sanctions relief and access to funds currently in escrow must be phased in and fully conditioned on IAEA certification that Iran is in full compliance and has demonstrated sustained compliance over time. Allowing Iran access to these tens of billions of dollars in funds before it has fulfilled its portion of the agreement is unacceptable.

• There must be an explicit process for the “snapback” re-imposition of sanctions if Iran violates the deal. It took years to impose the sanctions, which brought Iran to the negotiating table.

• Iran must not be allowed to conduct research and development on advanced centrifuges. Mastery of this technology will allow Iran to reduce its breakout time toward a nuclear weapon.

• Removal of all enriched uranium from Iran. There is no need for Iran to possess a large stockpile of low enriched uranium or any highly enriched uranium. With the exception of the small amounts enriched to 3.5% that will be created as part of Iran’s civilian enrichment process, all enriched uranium must be shipped out of Iran.

• Certification by the president that, before any restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program are lifted, Iran has changed its aggressive behavior in the region and no longer meets the qualifications to be designated a state sponsor of terrorism.

These eight principles have bipartisan support and largely reflect President Obama’s negotiating position at the start of the process (demonstrating how far he has strayed from his original intentions). Adhering to these eight principles will ensure that Iran never acquires nuclear weapons or has the means to spread nuclear technology to radical Islamic groups.

Above all, they will reassert American leadership in the Middle East, and preserve our national security, and the security of Israel and other allies in the region. Any deal that does not adhere to them will fail, with dire consequences for global security.

Mr. Graham, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from South Carolina.
Popular on WSJ

   


There are 141 comments.
 

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Peter Maggio
Peter Maggio 7 minutes ago

I wonder. Is Lindsey Graham a warmonger because he was teased all his life about his first name?
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Robert Grow
Robert Grow 26 minutes ago

Obama and his many fans want a planet where power is more evenly distributed, and western nations, particularly the US, no longer can exercise dominance. We need to empathize more with the aspirations of the third world and the Islamic world. We also need to accept responsibility for our many sins and do penance. If this means the destruction of our country, well, we had it coming. It's what our fellow Americans voted for, twice!


The next election can't come soon enough, but there's no guarantee much will change.
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William Schmauss
William Schmauss 28 minutes ago

And Senator, what are you going to do when the Iranians don't agree, or agree and then cheat as they have on everything else?  Are you willing to bomb their sites or help  the Israelis bomb  them?  Invade? exactly how are you going to stop them, as sure as the sun comes up tomorrow they will never willingly let go of their nuclear ambitions.
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108  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Hole in the Rooftop Solar-Panel Craze on: May 18, 2015, 12:13:28 PM



The Hole in the Rooftop Solar-Panel Craze
Large-scale plants make sense, but panels for houses simply transfer wealth from average electric customers.
Photo: Getty Images
By Brian H. Potts
May 17, 2015 5:52 p.m. ET


Most people buy rooftop solar panels because they think it will save them money or make them green, or both. But the truth is that rooftop solar shouldn’t be saving them money (though it often does), and it almost certainly isn’t green. In fact, the rooftop-solar craze is wasting billions of dollars a year that could be spent on greener initiatives. It also is hindering the growth of much more cost-effective renewable sources of power.

According to a recent Energy Department-backed study at North Carolina State University, installing a fully financed, average-size rooftop solar system will reduce energy costs for 93% of the single-family households in the 50 largest American cities today. That’s why people have been rushing out to buy rooftop solar panels, particularly in sunny states like Arizona, California and New Mexico.

The primary reason these small solar systems are cost-effective, however, is that they’re heavily subsidized. Utilities are forced by law to purchase solar power generated from the rooftops of homeowners and businesses at two to three times more than it would cost to buy solar power from large, independently run solar plants. Without subsidies, rooftop solar isn’t close to cost-effective.

Recent studies by Lazard and others, however, have found that large, utility-scale solar power plants can cost as little as five cents (or six cents without a subsidy) per kilowatt-hour to build and operate in the sunny Southwest. These plants are competitive with similarly sized fossil-fueled power plants. But this efficiency is possible only if solar plants are large and located in sunny parts of the country. On average, utility-scale solar plants nationwide still cost about 13 cents per kilowatt-hour, versus around six cents per kilowatt-hour for coal and natural gas, according to the Lazard study.

Large-scale solar-power prices are falling because the cost to manufacture solar panels has been decreasing and because large solar installations permit economies of scale. Rooftop solar, on the other hand, often involves microinstallations in inefficient places, which makes the overall cost as much as 3½ times higher.

So why are we paying more for the same sun?

There are lots of reasons. Well-meaning—but ill-conceived—federal, state and local tax incentives for rooftop solar give back between 30% and 40% of the installation costs to the owner as a tax credit. But more problematic are hidden rate subsidies, the most significant of which is called net metering, which is available in 44 states. Net metering allows solar-system owners to offset on a one-for-one basis the energy they receive from the electric grid with the solar power they generate on their roof.

While this might sound logical, it isn’t. An average California resident with solar, for example, generally pays about 17 cents per kilowatt-hour for electric service when the home’s solar panels aren’t operating. When they are operating, however, net metering requires the utility to pay that solar customer the same 17 cents per kilowatt-hour. But the solar customer still needs the grid to back up his intermittent solar panels, and the utility could have purchased that same solar power from a utility-scale solar power plant for about five cents per kilowatt-hour.

This 12-cents-per-kwh cost difference amounts to a wealth transfer from average electric customers to customers with rooftop solar systems (who also often have higher incomes). This is because utilities collect much of their fixed costs—the unavoidable costs of power plants, transmission lines, etc.—from residential customers through variable-use charges, in other words, charges based on how much energy they use. When a customer with rooftop solar purchases less electricity from the utility, he pays fewer variable-use charges and avoids contributing revenue to cover the utility’s fixed costs. The result is that all of the other customers have to pick up the difference.

The California Public Utilities Commission projects that net metering will cost the state $1.1 billion a year by 2020. Arizona Public Service Company calculates that if the current rate of rooftop-solar installations continues through mid-2017, its nonsolar customers will pay close to $800 million in higher rates to subsidize rooftop-solar customers over the next 20 years. The total costs nationwide are unknown. On May 5, however, an interdisciplinary group of researchers and professors at MIT released a study about the future of solar energy and concluded that net metering is inefficient and should be redesigned.

Large-scale solar power generally doesn’t get these same hidden-rate subsidies. When utilities build or buy output from large solar facilities, they spread the costs out evenly to customers. Every dollar spent on rooftop solar is a dollar not spent on other, more productive renewable sources.

Increasingly, utilities across the country have been calling attention to the problems with rooftop solar. They’ve been urging the pursuit of large-scale solar and other renewables, the moderation of rooftop-solar subsidies, and a restructuring of electric rates to encourage new technologies. They’ve been vilified by armies of PR consultants armed with sound bites about how utilities want to kill solar.

Yet the federal subsidies for solar amount to about $5 billion a year, with more than half of that amount going to rooftop and other, more expensive, non-utility solar plants. If the federal government spent the $5 billion instead subsidizing only utility-scale solar plants, I estimate that it could increase the amount of solar power installed in this country every year by about 65%. And without net metering and all of the other nonsensical state and local subsidies for rooftop solar, we could save this country billions of dollars every year.

It is time to stop encouraging people to pick a losing technology merely because it makes them feel good. There are greener, more cost-effective solutions.

Mr. Potts, a utility lawyer, is a partner and member of the Energy Industry Team at the international law firm Foley & Lardner LLP.
109  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: May 18, 2015, 11:10:41 AM
 By
Gerald F. Seib
May 18, 2015 11:37 a.m. ET
0 COMMENTS

The political world was obsessed last week with Jeb Bush’s problems in saying whether he would or wouldn’t have ordered the invasion of Iraq. But a more provocative statement about projection of American power actually came from a fellow presidential contender, Marco Rubio, in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“As president, I will use American power to oppose any violations of international waters, airspace, cyberspace, or outer space,” Sen. Rubio declared. “This includes the economic disruption caused when one country invades another, as well as the chaos caused by disruptions in chokepoints such as the South China Sea or the Strait of Hormuz.”

That expansive formula for using American power to protect economic and well as national-security interests was, in turn, followed over the weekend by Sen. Rand Paul staking out a far less aggressive position at a Republican candidate forum in Iowa. He questioned whether ousting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was a good idea under any conditions: “Is Iraq more stable or less stable after Saddam?”

Combine all that with the fact that Democrat Hillary Clinton seems inclined to show that she would be more aggressive than President Barack Obama has been abroad, while also trying to avoid alienating her party’s liberal (and largely anti-interventionist) base, and you can see something very significant breaking out: a wide-open 2016 debate over American intervention in the world.

In this emerging debate, there are no clear lines in either party. “It’s not terribly useful to speak of a Democratic foreign policy or a Republican foreign policy because essentially you have Republican foreign policies, plural, and Democratic foreign policies, plural,” says Richard Haass, a former State Department and White House aide who now is president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

This debate is the logical extension of a tumultuous decade and a half since the terror attacks of 9/11, when the old rule book about American intervention was thrown out without a new one to take its place. Fair or not, a common rap on President George W. Bush was that he was too eager to intervene abroad, and a common rap on President Barack Obama is that he hasn’t been eager enough.

On one level, this isn’t a new debate. “American history has been one of oscillation between two extremes: Pulling back from everything or getting involved in everything as if it’s our fight,” says James Steinberg, former deputy secretary of state who now is dean of the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.

But the backdrop has changed significantly. We now are in a post-Cold War world, where the threats to American security lie as much in nonstate actors as in hostile nations, where economic competition weighs as heavily as military competition, and where the searing experience of long and unresolved wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has shaken easy assumptions about America’s ability to steer events.

On the Republican side, those circumstances have opened a path for the arguments of Mr. Paul, who has found some traction within his usually hawkish party with his argument that the U.S. has been too eager to intervene around the world, especially in the Middle East. In essence, he seeks to take the GOP back to its early 20th century skepticism of America as global cop.

But the same circumstances also have produced the diametrically opposed views Mr. Rubio expressed in his speech last week. He laid out perhaps the most aggressive view of American power projection of any of the 2016 contenders. He said he would be guided as president by three “pillars”—a more robust military, use of American power to guard the global economy and use of that same power to promote American values.

In a question-and-answer session after his speech, Mr. Rubio said his formula referred to diplomatic power as much as military power, and the role he envisions “is not world’s policeman.” Still, his is an aggressive view of using American muscle by any standard. Other Republican candidates fall somewhere in between the Paul and Rubio poles.

For her part, Mrs. Clinton faces some tough decisions. As secretary of state, she pushed for intervention in the civil war in Syria, and, ultimately, became an advocate of an multinational military move into Libya to get rid of Moammar Gadhafi. She’s also been a proponent of keeping military options on the table in dealing with Iran’s nuclear program.

But she’ll also have to defend herself against Republican charges that she and her Obama administration colleagues were too eager to withdraw troops from Iraq, as well as the jibe Mr. Paul delivered from the opposite direction this weekend, that the Libya intervention was misguided.

In short, the debate over global intervention is on. You’ll need a new scorecard to keep it all straight.

Write to Gerald F. Seib at jerry.seib@wsj.com
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110  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / WSJ: Obama calls for restricting military gear to local police on: May 18, 2015, 11:06:35 AM
Obama Calls for Restricting Military Gear to Local Police
In effort to improve relations between police and communities, White House has announced new standards for federal programs in the aftermath of the Ferguson protests
By Colleen McCain Nelson
May 18, 2015 6:03 a.m. ET
WSJ:

The White House on Monday announced stricter standards for federal programs that equip local law-enforcement agencies with military gear and released a blueprint aimed at building trust between police and communities, as part of an array of prescriptions to improve policing.

The new reports, which lay out dozens of recommendations from a presidential task force on policing and call for halting the transfer of certain military gear to law-enforcement agencies, represent the White House’s most robust response yet to recent police killings of unarmed people. Mr. Obama will highlight his administration’s efforts Monday when he travels to Camden, N.J., a city that has struggled with violent crime and poverty but now has overhauled its police department, improved schools and jump-started economic development initiatives.
Related

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As controversial deaths at the hands of police officers have sparked outrage across the country, Mr. Obama has pledged to address the distrust between many police departments and minority communities and to tackle opportunity gaps that compound over time and can give rise to violence and civil unrest.

After protests last year in Ferguson, Mo., spurred criticism of federal programs that outfit local police departments with military gear, the president said his administration would develop new rules and improve oversight. A monthslong review found a lack of coordination among federal agencies and no consistent standards for police departments seeking the equipment.

The report that will be released Monday calls for a prohibition on federal programs providing certain types of equipment to law-enforcement agencies, citing a substantial risk of misuse. The list of prohibited gear includes tracked armored vehicles, weaponized aircraft, large-caliber firearms, grenade launchers and some camouflage uniforms.

Such equipment, which is seen as militaristic in nature, “could significantly undermine community trust and may encourage tactics and behaviors that are inconsistent with the premise of civilian law enforcement,” the report says.

More stringent controls for other types of equipment should be implemented, the report says. And law-enforcement agencies requesting certain gear will be required to seek the consent of local government and submit detailed justification explaining their need for equipment such as unmanned aerial vehicles and wheeled tactical vehicles.

Mr. Obama’s response to last year’s fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson also included the creation of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The group’s final report includes a call for expanded efforts to connect officers with neighborhoods and outlines strategies for increasing the use of body cameras and other technology. The task force, which emphasized the value of bolstering community policing, also offered recommendations for improving policies and oversight, strengthening training and education for law enforcement and promoting the wellness and safety of officers.

Ron Davis, director of the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services Office, said the report details reasonable and attainable recommendations to enhance public trust in the police.

“It is clear that this report will not sit on a shelf,” Mr. Davis said. “In fact, I believe it will be the transformational document that will help guide the over 16,000 police agencies to advance policing in the 21st century.”

Most of the proposals aren’t expected to be controversial, and some have been discussed by law enforcement for years.

On Monday, the administration plans to announce a grant program that will provide funds to some local law-enforcement agencies that commit to implementing the task force’s recommendations.

In Camden, Mr. Obama also will shine a spotlight on a transformed police force that has bolstered its ranks and brought down crime rates while focusing on community policing. The city, which has one of the highest poverty rates in the country, has been designated by the Obama administration as a “Promise Zone,” which allows local leaders to partner with the federal government on revitalization initiatives.

Administration officials have hailed Camden’s efforts to build trust between the police and the community, reduce violent crime, create jobs, and address opportunity gaps for minority boys and young men.

“From our perspective, Camden is an example of a community that is on the right track,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz.

The overhaul of Camden’s police department has been controversial, though, spurring complaints from civil-liberties groups that police have used excessive force and have been too aggressive in issuing summons for minor infractions. The decision to dissolve the city’s unionized police force and create a county-led division also has been criticized as union busting.

Write to Colleen McCain Nelson at colleen.nelson@wsj.com
111  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Who is your teacher? on: May 18, 2015, 10:42:44 AM
You are my very good friend Benji and I am quite proud to have you as such. Our Adventure continues!!!
112  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: May 18, 2015, 10:00:40 AM
By Paul McLeary with Ariel Robinson

Things fall apart. Iraqi forces broke and fled the city of Ramadi in the face of a renewed assault by the Islamic State on Sunday, recalling the full-fledged retreat from Mosul last summer that gave the extremist group access to whole divisions’ worth of American-supplied Iraqi military equipment.

Despite a top U.S. military official’s contention late last week that most of Ramadi was still solidly in government hands and that the Islamic State was “on the defensive,” the latest defeat heaps fresh doubt on Iraqi forces' ability  to hold ground, and the speed with which the 3,000 U.S. trainers there can churn out effective troops.

And in another echo of last summer, there have also been reports that the Iraqi Army has lost Camp Ar Ramadi just west of the city, home to the 8th brigade, leaving behind heavy weapons and scores of military vehicles.

Airstrikes and Iranian fighters. American air power – to the tune of over 165 airstrikes around Ramadi over the past month – has proven unable to prevent the Anbar provincial capital from falling. The loss has caused the local Sunni tribes to petition Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to again call for the assistance of Shiite militias (including some backed by Iran) to stem the losses.

The Shiite fighters were a key player in this spring's battle for the city of Tikrit, but have raised fears among some Sunnis of increased Iranian influence over the country’s security forces. Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan arrived in Baghdad for talks on Sunday.

Remember, the U.S. suspended airstrikes around Tikrit last month when the Iranian-backed militias were in the thick of the fight. Only when Abadi convinced them to back off did American bombs begin falling again.

Let the dominoes fall. The next major prize for the Islamic State is the massive oil refinery at Baiji. The refinery remains mostly in government hands, despite weeks of ferocious assaults. Reflecting Washington’s scattershot policy in Iraq, there has been a real back and forth among American defense officials over Baiji's importance.

In April, chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey claimed that Baiji was critical to Iraq’s security, followed just weeks later by Defense Department spokesman Col. Steve Warren claiming that the refinery wasn’t actually all that crucial.

With Fallujah and Ramadi in the hands of the Islamic State, and the Baiji assault still very much underway, it’s safe to assume that the refinery is next. Watch this space to see how important it really is to U.S. and Iraqi planners moving forward.

Read FP’s Colum Lynch and Sean Naylor on how the intelligence gathered during the weekend raid by Delta Force operators on the Syrian compound of the Islamic State’s “oil emir” Abu Sayyaf may lead to more strikes in the future.

Still on top. From drone strikes to secret prisons to torture, the CIA has been pulling the strings on American foreign policy in the Middle East since 9/11. In a new story in the latest issue of Foreign Policy, Yochi Dreazen and Sean Naylor report that despite complaints from Congress and others in government, the arrangement likely won’t change anytime soon.
113  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Clinton--Castro? on: May 18, 2015, 09:37:29 AM
Really? We Can Pencil It In Already? Clinton-Castro 2016?
If you were a clear-thinking Democrat, this is the sort of news that would make you burst into tears of despair:
Hillary Clinton’s campaign is likely to choose Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Julián Castro or another Hispanic politician to be her running mate, former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros said in an interview that will air Sunday.
“What I am hearing in Washington, including from people in Hillary Clinton’s campaign, is that the first person on their lists is Julián Castro, the . . . Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who use[d] to be the Mayor of San Antonio,” he said in an interview with Univision’s “Al Punto.”
“They don’t have a second option, because he is the superior candidate considering his record, personality, demeanor and Latin heritage.”
“I think there is a very high possibility that Hillary Clinton may choose Julián Castro,” he said.”
A one-option veep list? That Democratic bench isn’t just thin, it’s anorexic. And do Democrats really want to put the 40-year-old Castro a heartbeat away from the presidency? If this pans out, we’ll get to watch Democrats and the media insisting that Castro’s time as mayor of San Antonio and two years at HUD represented some sort of American policy renaissance and an era of bold leadership.
Back in 2012, when Castro was giving the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, I pointed out that San Antonio hadn’t gotten much better on his watch, particularly in the areas he claimed to emphasize, education and crime. By 2014, as he was joining HUD, his record as mayor included a few more local political scandals and a barely-budging poverty rate, even as the area economy soared from the shale boom. Castro left San Antonio in roughly the same shape as it was before he became mayor – and yet somehow became one of the Democratic party’s biggest stars and, if Cisneros is right, the only serious option to be Hillary’s running mate.
As I summarized last year:
Castro leveraged his rise-from-humble-roots narrative and the occasional wacky joke into national press coverage that most senators and governors would envy — major national-magazine profiles, a TED talk, an appearance on Meet the Press, a six-figure memoir deal. It’s fair to wonder whether Castro would get the same attention if he were not a member of a demographic increasingly important for national politics.
Cisneros’s appearing on the ticket would demonstrate that identity politics is to Democrats like that old quote about winning is to sports coaches: It’s not everything, it’s the only thing.
114  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin, LGBT, "discrimination", & discrimination. on: May 18, 2015, 01:07:51 AM
http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/comic/uppity-does-it/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DayByDayCartoon+%28Day+by+Day+Cartoon+by+Chris+Muir%29
115  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China activates MIRV program on: May 17, 2015, 07:14:06 PM
China Making Some Missiles More Powerful
By DAVID E. SANGER and WILLIAM J. BROADMAY 16, 2015
WASHINGTON — After decades of maintaining a minimal nuclear force, China has re-engineered many of its long-range ballistic missiles to carry multiple warheads, a step that federal officials and policy analysts say appears designed to give pause to the United States as it prepares to deploy more robust missile defenses in the Pacific.
What makes China’s decision particularly notable is that the technology of miniaturizing warheads and putting three or more atop a single missile has been in Chinese hands for decades. But a succession of Chinese leaders deliberately let it sit unused; they were not interested in getting into the kind of arms race that characterized the Cold War nuclear competition between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Now, however, President Xi Jinping appears to have altered course, at the same moment that he is building military airfields on disputed islands in the South China Sea, declaring exclusive Chinese “air defense identification zones,” sending Chinese submarines through the Persian Gulf for the first time and creating a powerful new arsenal of cyberweapons.


Many of those steps have taken American officials by surprise and have become evidence of the challenge the Obama administration faces in dealing with China, in particular after American intelligence agencies had predicted that Mr. Xi would focus on economic development and follow the path of his predecessor, who advocated the country’s “peaceful rise.”

Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Beijing on Saturday to discuss a variety of security and economic issues of concern to the United States, although it remained unclear whether this development with the missiles, which officials describe as recent, was on his agenda.

American officials say that, so far, China has declined to engage in talks on the decision to begin deploying multiple nuclear warheads atop its ballistic missiles.
“The United States would like to have a discussion of the broader issues of nuclear modernization and ballistic missile defense with China,” said Phillip C. Saunders, director of the Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs at National Defense University, a Pentagon-funded academic institution attended by many of the military’s next cadre of senior commanders.

“The Chinese have been reluctant to have that discussion in official channels,” Mr. Saunders said, although he and other experts have engaged in unofficial conversations with their Chinese counterparts on the warhead issue.

Beijing’s new nuclear program was reported deep inside the annual Pentagon report to Congress about Chinese military capabilities, disclosing a development that poses a dilemma for the Obama administration, which has never talked publicly about these Chinese nuclear advances.

President Obama is under more pressure than ever to deploy missile defense systems in the Pacific, although American policy officially states that those interceptors are to counter North Korea, not China. At the same time, the president is trying to find a way to signal that he will resist Chinese efforts to intimidate its neighbors, including some of Washington’s closest allies, and to keep the United States out of the Western Pacific.

Already, there is talk in the Pentagon of speeding up the missile defense effort and of sending military ships into international waters near the disputed islands, to make it clear that the United States will insist on free navigation even in areas that China is claiming as its exclusive zone.

Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, a policy research group in Washington, called the new deployments of Chinese warheads “a bad day for nuclear constraint.”

“China’s little force is slowly getting a little bigger,” he said, “and its limited capabilities are slowly getting a little better.”

To American officials, the Chinese move fits into a rapid transformation of their strategy under Mr. Xi, now considered one of the most powerful leaders since Mao Zedong or Deng Xiaoping. Vivid photographs, which were released recently, of Chinese efforts to reclaim land on disputed islands in the South China Sea and immediately build airfields on them, underscored for White House policy makers and military planners the speed and intensity of Mr. Xi’s determination to push potential competitors out into the mid-Pacific.

That has involved building aircraft carriers and submarines to create an overall force that could pose a credible challenge to the United States in the event of a regional crisis. Some of China’s military modernization program has been aimed directly at America’s technological advantage. China has sought technologies to block American surveillance and communications satellites, and its major investments in cybertechnology — and probes and attacks on American computer networks — are viewed by American officials as a way to both steal intellectual property and prepare for future conflict.

The upgrade to the nuclear forces fits into that strategy.

“This is obviously part of an effort to prepare for long-term competition with the United States,” said Ashley J. Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who was a senior national security official in the George W. Bush administration. “The Chinese are always fearful of American nuclear advantage.”
American nuclear forces today outnumber China’s by eight to one. The choice of which nuclear missiles to upgrade was notable, Mr. Tellis said, because China chose “one of few that can unambiguously reach the United States.”

The United States pioneered multiple warheads early in the Cold War. The move was more threatening than simply adding arms. In theory, one missile could release warheads that adjusted their flight paths so each zoomed toward a different target.

The term for the technical advance — multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle, or MIRV — became one of the Cold War’s most dreaded fixtures. It embodied the horrors of overkill and unthinkable slaughter. Each re-entry vehicle was a miniaturized hydrogen bomb. Each, by definition, was many times more destructive than the crude atomic weapon that leveled Hiroshima.

In 1999, during the Clinton administration, Republicans in Congress charged that Chinese spies had stolen the secrets of H-bomb miniaturization. But intelligence agencies noted Beijing’s restraint.

“For 20 years,” the C.I.A. reported, “China has had the technical capability to develop” missiles with multiple warheads and could, if so desired, upgrade its missile forces with MIRVs “in a few years.”

The calculus shifted in 2004, when the Bush administration began deploying a ground-based antimissile system in Alaska and California. Early in 2013, the Obama administration, worrying about North Korean nuclear advances, ordered an upgrade. It called for the interceptors to increase in number to 44 from 30.

While administration officials emphasized that Chinese missiles were not in the system’s cross hairs, they acknowledged that the growing number of interceptors might shatter at least some of Beijing’s warheads.

Today, analysts see China’s addition of multiple warheads as at least partly a response to Washington’s antimissile strides. “They’re doing it,” Mr. Kristensen of the Federation of American Scientists said, “to make sure they could get through the ballistic missile defenses.”

The Pentagon report, released on May 8, said that Beijing’s most powerful weapon now bore MIRV warheads. The intercontinental ballistic missile is known as the DF-5 (for Dong Feng, or East Wind). The Pentagon has said that China has about 20 in underground silos.

Private analysts said each upgraded DF-5 had probably received three warheads and that the advances might span half the missile force. If so, the number of warheads China can fire from that weapon at the United States has increased to about 40 from 20.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Jeffrey Lewis, an expert on Chinese nuclear forces at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. In an interview, he emphasized that even fewer of the DF-5s might have received the upgrade.

Early last week, Mr. Kristensen posted a public report on the missile intelligence.

Beijing’s new membership in “the MIRV club,” he said, “strains the credibility of China’s official assurance that it only wants a minimum nuclear deterrent and is not part of a nuclear arms race.”
116  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The JV is coming for President Obama on: May 17, 2015, 07:05:35 PM


http://allenwestrepublic.com/2015/05/16/breaking-isis-promises-to-behead-barack-obama-posted-this-photo/
117  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin, LGBT, "discrimination", & discrimination. on: May 17, 2015, 02:22:38 PM
That the looters were unemployed.
118  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A factoid in contradiction of a theory on: May 17, 2015, 11:44:44 AM
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/baltimore-city/bs-md-ci-corrections-officers-looting-20150513-story.html
119  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Clinton Foundation tithed 10% on: May 17, 2015, 11:39:12 AM

http://thefederalist.com/2015/04/27/in-2013-the-clinton-foundation-only-spent-10-percent-of-its-budget-on-charitable-grants/#.VVKoBUZWlFo.facebook

 angry
120  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Judge gets 28 years for selling kids to private prisons on: May 17, 2015, 11:21:37 AM
http://www.addictinginfo.org/2014/09/24/this-judge-sold-children-to-private-prisons-for-cash-hes-going-down-for-28-years/
121  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: May 17, 2015, 11:12:36 AM
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/may/14/china-sell-jordan-missile-firing-drones-after-obam/
122  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Exxon CEO sues against fracking near his home on: May 17, 2015, 10:59:55 AM
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/02/21/1279443/-Exxon-CEO-Joins-Lawsuit-to-Stop-Fracking-Near-His-Home?detail=facebook
123  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China's edebt crisis: addressing the problem but missing the mark on: May 16, 2015, 10:51:42 PM
 China's Debt Crisis: Addressing the Problem but Missing the Mark
Analysis
May 15, 2015 | 09:15 GMT
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A Chinese commuter rides past the CCTV office in the Central Business District in Beijing. (AFP PHOTO/Mark RALSTON)
Analysis
Forecast

    China is granting local governments greater autonomy by allowing them to swap up to $160 billion in outstanding loans for lower-interest, slow-maturing government bonds.
    The program will provide a crucial buffer against local government debt crises in 2015 and beyond.
    The initiative may reduce economic stress in the near term but fails to address the largest contributor to China's crisis: corporate debt.

A significant evolution is underway in how China manages its rising levels of local government debt. On May 14, the Chinese government announced that by September, it would complete the first phase of a new plan that allows local governments to swap outstanding loans for low-yield, slow-maturing local bonds. Under the plan, localities would have a steady and stable repayment path for the more than $3 trillion in local government debt accumulated during the past six years of rapid, post-financial crisis spending. It will also have the added benefit, Beijing hopes, of lowering local government debt-servicing costs, thus freeing up tens of billions of yuan in liquidity in the short run. For now, local governments will be able to exchange only a small portion of outstanding loans (about $160 billion) for local bonds, but if successful, the program will likely expand substantially in the years to come.

The debt swap plan comes at a crucial time for China's economy. In recent years, the country's slowing growth rate has steadily eroded the local governments' abilities to service outstanding debts, much less sustain the level of investment needed to keep the economy humming. By allowing localities to swap 50 percent or more of maturing outstanding debts this year, the new plan will provide a much-needed buffer against local government debt crises in the near term — and beyond, if the program expands as Beijing intends. Although the plan is a welcome departure from the Chinese government's previous ad hoc methods of managing local government debt maturation, it fails to address the most pressing problem: outstanding corporate debt.

At the end of 2014, Chinese businesses owed more than $16 trillion, accounting for 61 percent of China's total outstanding debt and equal to nearly 180 percent of the country's gross domestic product. That compares with $3.38 trillion owed by local government financing vehicles (LGFVs), the means through which local governments raise virtually all of their cash.

Local Bonds

The idea of allowing local governments to issue their own bonds is not new to China. Until recently, central government leaders consistently rejected the idea of granting localities greater autonomy. For most of the 2000s, the central government opted to keep virtually all financing under the control of a handful of major state-owned commercial banks and their local affiliates. When the global financial crisis forced Beijing to rapidly ramp up spending and investment after 2008, the central government refused to allow localities to issue their own debt and created a legal framework for LGFVs to operate and draw capital from state-owned banks, ultimately falling under the central government's control.

In 2008, when the country was facing a potentially destabilizing economic crisis, the decision to bind local government finances to the state-owned banking system via LGFVs was reasonable. Beijing was worried that economic imbalances between coastal and inland provinces could fuel political instability and fragmentation. From the vantage of 2008, LGFVs seemed to provide the central government a means to dramatically expand local governments' spending capacity — local governments cover 85-90 percent of all government expenditures, including for infrastructure development and social services — while retaining a degree of control over how and when that money was spent.

This state-controlled strategy, however, began to break down after 2010, when Beijing attempted to ease lending to LGFVs. The decrease in loans from state-owned banks resulted in the creation of "shadow lending" tools thanks to a persistent demand from businesses and LGFVs. By 2013-2014, shadow lending — some of it in the form of off-balance sheet lending by state-owned banks themselves — accounted for an uncomfortably large share of China's total outstanding debt and new credit creation. The new economic reality forced the central government to clamp down and correct the growing reliance on shadow lending, a process that partly explains the timing of the start of China's real estate and broader economic slowdowns in early 2014.

Even in the face of declining economic growth, Beijing is loath to reverse the trend. For one, the slowdown — and the reform and restructuring it implies — is a crucial step on the path to rebalancing China toward an economic growth model grounded in private consumption, high value-added manufacturing and services. More to the point, the sheer scale of outstanding credit and industrial overcapacity, combined with the rapid deterioration in credit's return on investment, means that reversing the current decline would require unsustainable levels of new spending. With little option but to allow the economy to falter, the Chinese government has instead turned its focus to managing the slowdown. Enabling local governments to repay their old debts while maintaining a baseline of spending is central to this effort.

Enter the new debt swap program. By exchanging higher-interest, fast-maturing loans for low-interest, slow-maturing bonds, Beijing aims to prolong but soften the pain of repaying those debts and free more cash for local governments to spend in the near term. In short, Beijing hopes that this new process of gradually granting autonomy to the local governments will cut down on a number of entrenched problems and force the localities to think more carefully about how they spend their money going forward. The simple fact that Beijing is proceeding with the creation of local bond markets suggests that the central government understands it no longer has any choice but to allow greater local fiscal autonomy. It is no coincidence that this process coincides with a sharp consolidation of the central leadership's powers in other spheres of Chinese political and economic life. China's leaders are aware that the country is moving toward a consumption-driven economic growth model. To mitigate future challenges posed by this transition, the government is moving rapidly to ensure maximum control over central party, government and security apparatuses.
The Elephant in the Room

The debt swap program has gotten off to a somewhat choppy start. In late April, Jiangsu province delayed an 81 billion-yuan ($13 billion) bond issuance, likely because of a lack of interest among commercial banks in purchasing the low-yield, slow-maturing securities. In response, the central government allowed commercial banks to use bonds bought from local governments as collateral for low-cost loans from the central bank, thus offsetting the impact of swapping higher-interest loans for low-interest local bonds on commercial banks' balance sheets. As the program expands, bonds will become an increasingly viable alternative financing route, and the room for error will grow. In the near term, local government debt defaults remain a real risk, especially in areas where growth is slowing the most and LGFV reliance on shadow lending is highest. But the debt swap program provides a viable and likely stable blueprint for metabolizing the debts accumulated by local governments over the past decade or so.

However, this plan does not address the larger and more pressing issue of corporate debt, and no comparable plan for managing corporate debt exists. The corporate debt is more than four times the size of local government debt and is also that which sustains the vast majority of employment in China. For the time being, Beijing seems to be counting on the ability of service industries and agriculture, with financial help from the banking sector, to absorb the employment leftover from industrial consolidation — both government-driven and economically induced — and corporate closures. As the slowdown continues, the rate and scale of corporate debt crises is likely to grow substantially. Unemployment among manual laborers and manufacturing is also expected to grow. Although a plan to improve local government solvency and boost local governments' liquidity could provide a buffer against social and political instability in the near term, the corporate debt must be addressed and eased to ensure China's long-term prosperity.
124  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bush blows it. on: May 16, 2015, 10:39:20 PM
Good comments on the tax proposals Doug.

I think Bush has made what will turn out to be a fatal error with his failure to assert the ultimate success of Iraq due to the surge.  Obama was handed a winning hand, and threw it away.

Rubio has missed a big opportunity in not taking the initiative here.

Instead, the Reps are accepting the meme that "Iraq was an error".   

It might be politically scary, but IMHO asserting the defeat of AQ and the success of establishing a democratic government and that leaving troops was no different than what we did in Germany, Japan, and Korea is the way to go.  As the fustercluck in the Middle East continues to spiral out of control, this doubling down on our part would prove to be politically wise as well.
125  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Norks: The shortcomings of a successful missile test on: May 16, 2015, 08:37:04 PM
 North Korea: The Shortcomings of a Successful Missile Test
Analysis
May 15, 2015 | 14:38 GMT
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A man watches a report on a North Korean missile launch at the Seoul Railway Station in March 2014 in Seoul, South Korea. (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Summary

On May 9, North Korea tested its new KN-11 submarine-launched ballistic missile under the watchful gaze of U.S. satellites, aircraft and observation ships. North Korea’s launch was successful: military personnel ejected the missile from underwater, its engine ignited at the surface and it flew about 150 meters (490 feet) before crashing into the sea. Fully developing this technology would extend the reach of North Korean nuclear missile systems and improve the country's second-strike capability in case its ground-based facilities are taken out. The smoothness of the test and the resulting media attention, however, obscure the major obstacles to developing this capacity. Developing the missile technology is one step, but Pyongyang also needs a suitable ballistic missile submarine of the requisite size, endurance and stealth — something that it does not have and will find challenging to develop.
Analysis

Pyongyang is naturally secretive about its submarine-launched ballistic missile program and has carefully guarded the details of it. Because of this, post-test estimates of the program’s progress have varied. An anonymous South Korean defense official told the media that North Korea could develop a fully operational system within two to three years. U.S. officials, however, believe a fully functional system is far from completion and allege the test was not actually carried out from a submarine. Instead, they suggest it was a simulated firing to test an underwater ejection system, perhaps from a towed launch pad.

Fielding a submarine-launched ballistic missile is difficult. The technology is much more complex than land-based missile technology, which itself has already proved challenging for North Korea. Underwater launch first requires a successful ejection system and a gas generator for reducing hydrodynamic resistance. Still, a reliable submarine-launched ballistic missile is not completely out of North Korea’s reach. With time, continuous tests and the necessary resources, the North Koreans could eventually develop a successful system.
North Korea's Geographic Challenge

The technology for the missile system itself, however, is just one aspect of a successful system. A sea-based nuclear missile capability hinges on developing an adequate carrier vessel — a ballistic missile submarine. Without a large, stealthy and long-range submarine, the North Korean submarine-launched ballistic missile effort will simply consume significant resources without altering the nuclear equation.

On paper, North Korea’s submarine fleet is quite large, comprising around 70 vessels. But the majority of these are mini-submarines that displace about 300 tons of water and are unsuited for operations beyond littoral waters. The North Korean navy’s largest submarines at the moment are Chinese Type 033 vessels. These are copies of Russia’s 1950s-era Romeo-class submarines and displace 1,830 tons. Rumors suggest North Korea is developing a replacement for these submarines: the Sinpo-class. These new vessels, however, are unlikely to exceed the capabilities of the improved Type 033 variants currently in use and will be of around the same size, displacing approximately 1,500 tons.

Unfortunately for Pyongyang, the Sinpo-class submarines under development simply do not meet the requirements to be an adequate ballistic missile launching platform. In order to function in this capacity, a submarine would need to be of sufficient size to carry a ballistic missile. The smallest submarine to ever carry a submarine-launched ballistic missile is the Soviet Zulu IV-class, which carried one to two nuclear ballistic missiles, displaced approximately 2,000 tons and was a full quarter heavier than North Korea’s Chinese Type 033 or Sinpo-class submarines. Pyongyang will need bigger vessels in the future to carry one to two missiles in an operational capacity. To carry more would require a new and entirely different class of submarine.

Despite these challenges, the benefits of a fielded submarine-launched ballistic missile are substantial. This capability would give North Korea two advantages not offered by ground-based missiles. First, it would extend the reach of North Korea's missile systems and theoretically enable it to strike targets outside of ground-based missile range. Second, submarine-launched missiles, because they are offshore and mobile, would give North Korea a second-strike capability, allowing it to retaliate against attacks on its land-based nuclear bases and launch pads. These benefits assume, however, that North Korea’s submarines have an adequate level of endurance, the amount of time a vessel can remain at sea unsupported. Submarines would need to be able to remain unsupported long enough to reach targets beyond the range of land-based missiles. In order to fulfill a second-strike role, vessels would need to be deployed for months far from vulnerable ports and remain ready for counterattack.

North Korea’s current Type 033 submarines, even with modifications, cannot meet these endurance requirements. A fully functioning KN-11 missile would have a range of approximately 2,500 kilometers (1,553 miles). The Type 033 submarine has a range of around 15,000 kilometers. This is not enough to approach within 2,500 kilometers of the U.S. mainland and return without at-sea refueling. Were North Korea to refuel these vessels at sea, it would significantly degrade the stealth variable of these vessels.

Stealth would be essential in order to avoid being detected and neutralized by an enemy in long patrols at sea or a mission to the U.S. mainland. The Type 033 is a diesel electric boat and can be stealthy in short missions within littoral waters. Beyond these near-shore environments, however, the submarine would have a more difficult time concealing itself without the noise or clutter typically found in littoral waters. The Type 033 would also be forced to spend significant time at the surface to recharge its batteries by running its diesel engines, a process for which they need atmospheric oxygen. Many of the latest conventional submarines, by contrast, are equipped with air-independent propulsion, which means they do not need to surface to run their engines.

Without an adequate submarine, the resources Pyongyang is investing in new missile technology will not improve the capability of its existing land-based missile program. The missiles in the current KN-08 program will still have greater range and will be able to be more rapidly dispersed in large numbers and in difficult terrain. Eventually, North Korea could develop a suitable ballistic missile submarine, but it would take several years to complete. Such a development would truly change the nuclear equation. For now, however, the successful test conducted May 9 is not going to alter North Korea’s nuclear capability.
126  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: May 16, 2015, 08:32:36 PM
A very clever analysis, and one in line with previous (and outside the box) Stratfor predictions, but for me the omission of the nuclear variable from the equation leads to GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out.

At any rate, here's what Iran makes of it:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/16/us-yemen-security-iran-khamenei-idUSKBN0O108O20150516?feedType=RSS&feedName=worldNews
127  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East: War, Peace, and SNAFU, TARFU, and FUBAR on: May 16, 2015, 05:54:54 PM
 Camp David and the U.S. Power of Choice in the Middle East
Geopolitical Diary
May 14, 2015 | 22:45 GMT
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U.S. President Barack Obama's Camp David retreat for Sunni Gulf leaders will not be remembered for the diplomatic snubs, defense deals or even the nuclear proliferation threats. It will be remembered as the most vivid illustration of a changing balance of power in the Middle East after three and a half decades of acrimonious U.S.-Iran relations

The last major shift in the U.S. relationship with the Persian Gulf states took place in the 1970s, in the thick of the Cold War. The 34-year-old deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and the 55-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Nayef, may be too young to fully understand what their royal elders struggled with in trying to ensure that the global hegemon would not sacrifice the House of Saud to its Persian allies. After all, an entire generation has only known a world in which U.S. support for Saudi Arabia and hostility toward Iran were a given. But the mandate of King Salman's successors at Camp David was clear: to prevent history from repeating itself.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman Explains.

Thanks to a wealth of declassified information from the Nixon-Kissinger years, we now have a much more colorful view of how the White House managed its relationships in the Persian Gulf at the time. The Shah of Iran sold himself to the Americans as the Guardian of the Gulf, worthy of an exorbitant amount of military toys, including squadrons of F-14 fighter jets fresh off the assembly line. The Nixon White House indulged the shah in most of these requests. The logic was that Iran, as a steadfast and modernized partner of the United States in contrast to the House of Saud and the arcane Wahhabism it practiced, would help the United States carry the burden of ensuring freedom of navigation through the Strait of Hormuz. Tehran also would help keep the Soviets at bay, and it would do all of this while serving as a reliable oil supplier to the West.

While Iran sat on a pedestal in Washington, the Saudis were of course more than unnerved. With Soviet-backed militant groups operating across the region and multiple eyes set on Saudi oil fields, the last thing the House of Saud needed was for Washington to place its trust in Riyadh's historical enemy to secure the Gulf. An account by U.S. Ambassador to Iran James Akins on a conversation he had with Saudi Oil Minister Ahmed Zaki Yamani in 1975 is particularly revealing of the Saudi perception of what they viewed as an intolerable U.S. foreign policy. Akins claimed that an infuriated Yamani confronted him about an alleged set of military contingency plans outlined by the shah and the White House. From the Saudi point of view, the Americans were effectively arming Iran to enable an Iranian invasion of the Arabian oil fields and the occupation of the "entire Arabian littoral of the Persian Gulf."

Though Riyadh certainly felt it had to compete for Washington's attention, the House of Saud and Washington also took important steps to build up their own strategic relationship. The United States needed Saudi Arabia to balance against Iran in OPEC policy and bankroll regional governments and proxies in a broader battle against Soviet influence. At Camp David 44 years ago, Nixon devised a plan to break from the gold standard, which relied heavily on Saudi cooperation. As Nixon sought to ensure global demand for the dollar for many decades to come, the House of Saud made a deal with Washington to price oil sales in dollars only and buy up billions of U.S. treasuries with surplus petrodollars. Thanks to the Saudis and Nixon's geopolitical backroom deals, the U.S. dollar has been able to build and preserve its position as the world's reserve currency, enabling the United States to spend beyond its means as any global empire would.

But it was not until the 1979 Iranian Revolution that toppled the shah and elevated the mullahs that the U.S.-Saudi relationship really took off. From that point onward, the House of Saud and the White House forgave and forgot their many differences and remade the security architecture of the Persian Gulf to put the United States firmly behind the Sunni bloc while Iran remained isolated. However, that alliance structure started to crack in 2003, when the United States toppled the Sunni government of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and wittingly opened the door for Iran to anchor itself in Mesopotamia through a Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad.

The Gulf state leaders gathered at Camp David on Thursday may feel betrayed by the United States, but they cannot be surprised by the evolution of U.S. relations in the Persian Gulf. This shift was triggered a dozen years ago, even if it is only fully materializing now. Saudi editorials in the days leading up to the summit were full of contempt. Some argue that Obama's outreach is an admission that he made a losing bet on Iran and is now groveling for reacceptance by Gulf leaders. Another claims that Obama may want special relations with both Iran and the Gulf states at the same time, but that he simply cannot have it both ways.

But in fact, he can. A U.S. detente with Iran does not mean that Washington's relationship with the Sunni states of the Gulf is swept to the side. On the contrary, the United States will be working to build up these states, along with Turkey, to counterbalance Iran in the region. The chessboard is also somewhat simpler for the United States this time around. The United States and Russia may be experiencing Cold War nostalgia today, but Russia's influence in the Middle East is far more limited today than it was a couple of decades ago. That means the proxy battles in the region will primarily involve the local players rather than the overarching superpowers. Instead, the United States will be there when it comes to securing energy chokepoints and neutralizing jihadist threats, picking and choosing its battles wisely along the way.

And that is where the core frustration in Saudi Arabia will fester. The United States has revived the power of choice for itself in the Persian Gulf. When it comes to finding another security guarantor in the region, the Saudi royals will inevitably find themselves back in Washington in their time of need.
128  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin, LGBT, "discrimination", & discrimination. on: May 16, 2015, 02:59:36 PM
"Note that the white guy looks clean cut, middle class while the black guy is in standard issue gangstawear w/cornrows. Put a black male in a clean cut middle class clothes and use a white male with arms sleeved in prison ink and see how that changes things."

Now we are playing the game!
129  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-China (& Japan, South China Sea-- Vietnam, Philippines, etc) on: May 16, 2015, 12:53:44 PM
The lack of attention to China seizing control of the open seas wherein 40% of the world's trade transits boggles the mind.
130  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin, LGBT, "discrimination", & discrimination. on: May 16, 2015, 12:51:15 PM
Of course not, this is FB level debate, and frankly we need to be able to play this game too.
131  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hillary took money personally (while out of office) on: May 16, 2015, 12:47:14 PM
http://www.vox.com/2015/5/16/8614881/Hillary-Clinton-took-money
132  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Did we just concede the South China Sea to China?!? on: May 16, 2015, 12:41:15 PM
U.S. Seeks Calmer Waters
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry calls for reduced tensions over China’s building of artificial islands
Photos by satellite-imagery provider DigitalGlobe shows what is believed to be Chinese vessels dredging sand at Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. ENLARGE
Photos by satellite-imagery provider DigitalGlobe shows what is believed to be Chinese vessels dredging sand at Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
By
Jeremy Page
May 16, 2015 8:33 a.m. ET
13 COMMENTS

BEIJING—Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing is determined to protect its sovereignty in the South China Sea as his visiting U.S. counterpart John Kerry called for efforts to reduce tensions over China’s stepped-up building of artificial islands.

At a joint news conference Saturday, Mr. Kerry briefly expressed concern about the land reclamation in the South China Sea and urged China to take steps to defuse the situation. He tried to emphasize other positive aspects of bilateral relations, such as cooperation on climate change.

Mr. Kerry didn’t respond to a reporter’s question on whether the U.S. military is planning to send warships or planes within 12 nautical miles of the artificial islands, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

Mr. Wang took up the question, however, saying the structures fall within the scope of China’s sovereignty.

“The determination of the Chinese side to safeguard our own sovereignty and territorial integrity is as firm as a rock and it is unshakable,” Mr. Wang said. “It is the demand of our people on our government as well as a legitimate right of ours.”


Mr. Wang said China is committed to resolving territorial disputes peacefully and would continue ongoing talks about the artificial islands with the U.S. and other nations.

The two men had met earlier for talks on the first day of Mr. Kerry’s weekend visit to Beijing, which officials say is designed to lay the ground for high-level meetings by senior officials in Washington in June, and a state visit to the U.S. by Chinese President Xi Jinping in September.

Mr. Kerry was due to meet Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Saturday afternoon and Mr. Xi on Sunday before moving on to South Korea.

The visit to Beijing has been overshadowed by differences on the South China Sea, where Beijing’s extensive land reclamation in the past year has raised fresh concerns in Asia and the U.S. that it plans to use force to assert its sweeping territorial claims.

China’s claims cover almost all of the South China Sea—one of the world’s busiest shipping routes—and overlap with those of several neighboring countries, including the Philippines, a U.S. treaty ally.

The U.S. military is now considering sending navy ships and aircraft within 12 nautical miles of the artificial islands to demonstrate that the U.S. doesn't believe China can claim territorial seas around them, U.S. officials say.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a joint news conference in Beijing on Saturday, May 16, 2015. ENLARGE
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at a joint news conference in Beijing on Saturday, May 16, 2015. Photo: Zuma Press

Ahead of Mr. Kerry’s visit, U.S. officials had said that he would take a tough line on the issue in Beijing.

At the news conference, Mr. Kerry said the U.S. had already expressed its concern over the pace and scope of China’s island-building.

“I urged China through Foreign Minister Wang to take actions that will join with everybody in helping to reduce tensions and increase the prospect of a diplomatic solution,” he said. The region, he said, needs “smart diplomacy” to achieve a code of conduct for the South China Sea rather than “outposts and military strips.”

Mr. Kerry also played down other points of recent tension, saying the U.S. welcomed China’s establishment of an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The Obama administration at first tried to discourage allies from joining, U.S. officials and diplomats from allied countries have said, but switched to a more cooperative position when the bank, which is due to start operating this year, attracted many prospective members.

Mr. Wang said the infrastructure bank and other recent Chinese initiatives weren't aimed at reducing U.S. influence in Asia, noting that 23 of the 57 founding members of the new bank were not Asian nations.

“When we talk about openness and inclusiveness, we’re not simply talking the talk—we’re actually walking the walk,” Mr. Wang said.

Write to Jeremy Page at jeremy.page@wsj.com
Popular on WSJ

 


It seems China has won a battle without firing a shot.  US appears to be fully confused and disoriented as "loopholes" in the global order are ruthlessly exploited by many who like to serve and eat salami slices.
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133  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morsi sentenced to death on: May 16, 2015, 12:24:08 PM
CAIRO—An Egyptian court on Saturday sentenced ousted President Mohammed Morsi to death for breaking out of prison during the height of the nation’s uprising in 2011, the latest blow against Islamist critics of the government.

The decision is the harshest of multiple sentences given to Mr. Morsi and underscores the breadth of current President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi’s crackdown on his chief political opponents, the Muslim Brotherhood.  The court’s preliminary verdict Saturday is subject to review by the Grand Mufti, Egypt’s highest religious authority, whose opinion isn’t legally binding but is traditionally adopted by the court.  A final verdict based his opinion will be delivered June 2 but will be open to appeals, which can take years in Egypt’s clogged judicial system.

Mr. Morsi has already been sentenced to 20 years in prison last month in a separate case in which he was found guilty of fomenting violence during a series of protests in 2012 that dogged his year in office.

The former Egyptian president was among 106 members and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood sentenced to death on Saturday, including the group’s spiritual guide Mohammed Badie and prominent Islamic scholar, Youssef al-Qaradawi, who is based in Qatar.


The decision—broadcast on state television as Mr. Morsi and some of co-defendants smiled defiantly from inside the caged dock used to hold the accused—was received quietly in Egypt. However, authorities said it may have inspired a violent response in the restive Sinai Peninsula where security forces have struggled to contain a low-level Islamist insurgency.

Hours after the verdict was delivered, unknown gunmen attacked a vehicle carrying several judges and aides in the northern Sinai town of al-Arish, killing three judges, a driver, and wounding three others, according to Egypt’s state news agency.  There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the state news agency quotes unnamed security officials saying the attack may have been retaliation for the verdict against Mr. Morsi.

Saturday’s decision is latest in a series of mass trials that have led to death penalty verdicts against the leadership and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. Human rights organizations have criticized the mass sentences, while some Western governments, including the U.S., have expressed concern over the apparent lack of due process. 
If Saturday’s verdicts are confirmed, the entire top leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood will be facing either life in prison or execution stemming from trials that began under Mr. Sisi’s leadership. The sentences represent the most comprehensive crackdown of the group since the modern Egyptian state was founded.

“The death penalty has become the favorite tool for the Egyptian authorities to purge the political opposition,” Amnesty International said in a statement on Saturday, calling Mr. Morsi’s trial “grossly unfair.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a close ally of Mr. Morsi, slammed the Egyptian court’s decision and criticized western governments for not speaking forcibly enough against the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Unfortunately, they decided to execute Morsi. Egypt is turning to ancient Egypt,” Mr. Erdogan said, highlighting that Cairo could hang a leader elected democratically with 52% support.

Amr Darrag, a former cabinet minister under Mr. Morsi, said the verdict marks “one of the darkest days in Egypt’s history” in a statement from Turkey, where he remains in exile.

The defendants were accused of breaking out of Wadi al Natroun prison days after the 2011 uprising first began. He and other senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood had been ordered jailed by then president Hosni Mubarak , whose rule was being undermined by massive street protests that resulted in his resignation 18 days after they began on Jan. 25, 2011.  Two days after being detained, the prison was raided by armed groups who clashed with jail guards, ultimately beating the authorities into retreat.

In a phone call to Al Jazeera Arabic broadcast on the day of his escape, a panicked Mr. Morsi is heard saying he and his Muslim Brotherhood colleagues were freed by unknown men in both prison uniforms and in civilian clothes, and urged authorities to instruct him on how to proceed, vowing not to leave the prison without official permission.  In 2013, months after he had been deposed and arrested by Mr. Sisi, prosecutors charged Mr. Morsi with breaking out of the prison with the help of Hamas operatives they alleged had infiltrated Egypt during the chaotic uprising.

Mr. Al Sisi later became president after winning in a landslide against a weak opponent in 2014.

In a statement, Hamas said some of the defendants found guilty in the case are members of their organization who had died before the 2011 uprising or who were serving lengthy prison sentences in Israel.

Critics of the regime have drawn comparisons between Mr. Morsi’s legal fate and that of Mr. Mubarak who has had nearly every legal case against him dismissed or has resulted in acquittal. On May 9, Mr. Mubarak was sentenced to three years in a retrial for corruption, but legal experts said he is unlikely to serve any of the time in prison owing to several years of detention—mostly in a military hospital—since his ouster in 2011.

—Emre Peker in Istanbul contributed to this article.

Write to Tamer El-Ghobashy at tamer.el-ghobashy@wsj.com
134  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Did we almost lose NY? on: May 16, 2015, 12:13:22 PM
https://sdipn.wordpress.com/2015/05/16/did-we-almost-lose-new-york/
135  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US SF kill senior ISIS leader in Syria, capture wife on: May 16, 2015, 12:01:06 PM
second post:
=============

U.S. Special Forces Kill Senior ISIS Leader in Syria, Capture His Wife

Officials say Abu Sayyaf helped direct group’s oil, gas and financial arms, was emerging as a leader of military operations
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, shown here on May 1, on Saturday said a special forces raid that killed a senior Islamic State leader Abu Sayyaf and captured his wife was a significant blow to the militant group. ENLARGE
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, shown here on May 1, on Saturday said a special forces raid that killed a senior Islamic State leader Abu Sayyaf and captured his wife was a significant blow to the militant group. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press
By
Gordon Lubold
Updated May 16, 2015 12:29 p.m. ET
155 COMMENTS

WASHINGTON—A senior Islamic State leader was killed, and his wife captured, in a raid in eastern Syria by U.S. Special Operations, the first mission in that country targeting wanted ISIS militants, defense officials said early on Saturday.

The operation was conducted on the ground in Al-Amr near the eastern Syrian city of Deir-Ezzour to capture Abu Sayyaf and his wife, Umm Sayyaf, also thought to be part of the organization, Pentagon officials said.

During the mission late Friday, Abu Sayyaf “engaged U.S. forces” and was killed. Special Operations forces, however, captured Umm Sayyaf, the Pentagon said.  No American forces were injured or killed, the Defense Department said.  The mission was a rare example of U.S. forces conducting an operational maneuver on the ground. Last year, Special Operations forces conducted a risky but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to rescue American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and other hostages in eastern Syria.

“The operation represents another significant blow to ISIL, and it is a reminder that the United States will never waver in denying safe haven to terrorists who threaten our citizens, and those of our friends and allies,” according to a statement issued by Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Islamic State is sometimes referred to as ISIS or ISIL.

Abu Sayyaf was said to have helped direct the terrorist organization’s illicit oil gas and some financial operations that help fund Islamic State’s operations. He was also emerging as a leader of the group’s military operations.  Umm Sayyaf was captured during the operation and is now being held by U.S. officials in Iraq. She is thought to have been holding a young Yazidi woman as a slave. The Yazidi woman was freed and will be reunited with her family in coming days, according to U.S. officials.

    ‘The operation represents another significant blow to ISIL.’
    —U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in discussing Friday’s raid.

“We suspect that Umm Sayyaf is a member of ISIL, played an important role in ISIL’s terrorist activities and may have been complicit in the enslavement of the young woman rescued last night,” according to National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan.

The White House has been reluctant to send U.S. forces into harm’s way in Syria and in Iraq, maintaining the pledge President Barack Obama have no “combat boots” on the ground in either country.  Mr. Obama authorized Friday’s raid with what the White House described as the unanimous recommendation of his national security team as well as the consent of Iraqi authorities.  The mission came after U.S. military officials had developed enough intelligence using drones and other means to be confident enough that the mission could be successful, likely taking extra precautions after the failed rescue attempt for Messrs. Foley and Sotloff last year.

—Carol E. Lee and Adam Entous contributed to this article.
136  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Open Carry in White and Black on: May 16, 2015, 11:52:07 AM
second post

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKGZnB41_e4&feature=youtu.be&app=desktop
137  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Politica on: May 16, 2015, 11:35:05 AM
Interesante, gracias por eso.
138  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / WSJ on the Alberto Nisman case on: May 16, 2015, 11:34:12 AM


    245
    161

    World
    Latin America

In Alberto Nisman Case, a Body, a Pistol and Few Answers in Argentina
Investigations differ on whether death of prosecutor who accused president was murder or suicide
Alberto Nisman, Argentina’s best-known prosecutor, was found dead in his apartment of a gunshot wound to the head in January. ENLARGE
Alberto Nisman, Argentina’s best-known prosecutor, was found dead in his apartment of a gunshot wound to the head in January. Photo: MARCOS BRINDICCI/REUTERS
By
Taos Turner And
Reed Johnson
May 15, 2015 1:30 p.m. ET
52 COMMENTS

BUENOS AIRES—Early in the morning of Jan. 19, a phone rang in Sandra Arroyo Salgado’s room at the Saint Dominique Hotel in Paris. It was the bodyguard of Alberto Nisman, Argentina’s best-known prosecutor and the father of her two children. Mr. Nisman, he told her, had been found dead in his apartment of a gunshot to the head.

The horror had scarcely sunk in before she frantically began phoning Argentine officials. As a federal judge in that country, Ms. Arroyo Salgado was well acquainted with what could go wrong with police investigations. She wanted to stop the autopsy from happening before she got back to Buenos Aires.

The judge had every reason to be suspicious. Mr. Nisman, her former longtime companion, was hours away from going before Congress to accuse Argentina’s president of conspiring to cover up Iran’s alleged role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center that killed 85 people. Mr. Nisman had received numerous death threats.

Judge Arroyo Salgado was wary of leaving it to authorities to figure out what had happened. So she launched her own probe.

“I need to know the truth to explain this to my daughters,” she said in a recent interview.

The rival investigative teams have helped turn the case into a whodunit that has gripped the nation. They have failed to agree even on such basic facts as the time of death. Nor has there been any resolution to the most important question: Was Mr. Nisman assassinated or did he commit suicide?

Judge Arroyo Salgado didn’t succeed in postponing the autopsy. The lead government investigator said almost immediately that the autopsy report was “categorical” in determining that Mr. Nisman took his own life with a borrowed .22 caliber Bersa pistol. Two tests, however, showed Mr. Nisman’s supposed trigger hand didn’t bear traces of gunpowder.

Judge Arroyo Salgado’s team didn’t buy the suicide scenario. It suggested in a 93-page report that Mr. Nisman was murdered, shot from behind while he was on one knee by his bathtub. The report, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, said chemical testing showed someone may have washed away blood from a faucet near Mr. Nisman’s body, although a repeat test by the judge’s team later cast doubt on that.
Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, the former longtime companion of Mr. Nisman, in April before she met with authorities investigating his death. ENLARGE
Judge Sandra Arroyo Salgado, the former longtime companion of Mr. Nisman, in April before she met with authorities investigating his death. Photo: Xinhua/Zuma Press

The judge says authorities wouldn’t let her team test for blood elsewhere or test the pistol that killed him. She also claims authorities bungled the case from the start, allowing scores of people, including journalists and a top government security official, to taint the scene by walking around without protective gear. At one point, she says, Mr. Nisman’s distraught mother was even asked to tidy up by doing some dishes.

Nearly four months after Mr. Nisman’s death at the age of 51, there still are more questions than answers. Polls show most Argentines believe he was murdered, but few believe the case will ever be solved.

“If the investigation ends up determining this was a murder, people won’t believe it. If it says he committed suicide, nobody will believe that either, because all of this has been so messed up—and continues to be so messed up,” says Luis Kvitko, an Argentine forensic doctor and international crime-scene consultant who isn’t involved in the case.

Public reaction has moved from shock and outrage about Mr. Nisman’s death to disgust and cynicism about the nation’s judicial system. While Argentine courts have long been political, under President Cristina Kirchner they have become a polarized battleground. Her critics accuse her of packing courthouses and prosecutors’ offices with loyalists. The president, who is scheduled to leave office in December, has said the judiciary needed to be purged of vested interests.

Last month, a prosecutor shelved the investigation into Mr. Nisman’s allegations that Mrs. Kirchner had conspired to cover up Iran’s alleged role in the 1994 bombing, the worst anti-Semitic attack since World War II. The prosecutor, Javier De Luca, is a member of Legitimate Justice, a pro-Kirchner group of lawyers and judges.

Mr. De Luca made the decision, which he said was based strictly on the letter of the law, despite calls from two other prosecutors and a judge to start a formal investigation. Legal experts said that, barring an unprecedented appeal to the Supreme Court, the move likely is the end of the road for Mr. Nisman’s allegations.

The investigation of his death, however, grinds on. A panel of experts appointed by the lead investigator is evaluating the murder and suicide theories and trying to settle the question once and for all.

The roots of the saga reach back to a July morning in 1994, when a suicide bomber parked a Renault truck outside the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Association and detonated it, leveling the six-story community center. The probe dragged on for a decade. In 2004, then-President Néstor Kirchner, who preceded his wife, Cristina, in office, put Mr. Nisman, a descendant of Holocaust survivors and victims, in charge of the probe.

Mr. Nisman built a case that Hezbollah agents, in league with Iran, were responsible. Argentina was chosen, he concluded, because it was a “soft” target with a large Jewish community.

In 2006, Mr. Nisman and another prosecutor brought formal charges against Iran’s former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, four other top ministers and three officials from the Iranian embassy in Argentina. Iran has denied responsibility, as has Hezbollah.

Mr. Nisman also came to believe—although he didn’t say so publicly for many months—that Mrs. Kirchner spearheaded a coverup of Iran’s alleged role as part of a never-realized grain-and-beef-for-oil deal with the revolutionary Islamic regime.
ENLARGE

By that time, a movement had begun to change the makeup of the nation’s judiciary. Legitimate Justice, the pro-Kirchner legal group, believed the courts were too subservient to a conservative Argentine establishment that opposes Mrs. Kirchner’s legislative agenda. About 30% of the nation’s prosecutors and 10% to 15% of its judges are members or are sympathetic to the group, according to the group’s president, Judge María Laura Garrigós.

Mrs. Kirchner pushed through legislation making it easier to appoint and impeach judges. The Supreme Court subsequently struck down one of her laws as an infringement of judicial independence. Still, Argentina ranks 127 out of 144 countries in the World Economic Forum ratings on judicial independence.

This year, on Jan. 14, Mr. Nisman went public with his explosive claims, filing a criminal complaint accusing Mrs. Kirchner, her foreign minister and others of obstruction of justice.

Mr. Nisman said thousands of intercepted phone calls involving associates of the president and a suspect in the bombing had implicated her in a coverup. The government’s motive, he alleged, was to align itself with countries resistant to U.S. power, such as Venezuela and Iran, and to gain access to Iranian oil.

“It’s as if Bush negotiated with bin Laden impunity for al Qaeda,” Mr. Nisman wrote to one acquaintance in a Jan. 14 WhatsApp message.

Argentina’s government strongly denied the charges. Héctor Timerman, Argentina’s foreign minister, said in an interview he believes Iran was responsible for the bombing but that there was no coverup.

Four days after Mr. Nisman dropped his bombshell, on the night before he was scheduled to elaborate on his allegations before Congress, his body was found in a pool of blood in his bathroom, with the Bersa pistol nearby.

At first, Mrs. Kirchner echoed the early suggestion by the lead investigator that Mr. Nisman had killed himself. But three days later, she reversed herself, writing on her Facebook page that she thought the prosecutor was murdered in a plot to discredit her government.

The lead investigator, Viviana Fein, backed away from her suicide suggestion and said she was open to all hypotheses. She has said little in public lately, except to defend herself from Judge Arroyo Salgado’s accusations of incompetence and mendacity. Ms. Fein declined to comment for this article, as did the prosecutor, Mr. De Luca, and Mrs. Kirchner.

Judge Arroyo Salgado, an energetic woman who lived with Mr. Nisman for 17 years before they separated in 2011, was allowed under Argentine law to open her own investigation on behalf of their daughters. The probe has no legal weight, but can make nonbinding suggestions to the official investigator.

“From the moment I found out about Alberto’s death, it never occurred to me that he could have killed himself,” Judge Arroyo Salgado said in an interview at her office. “He was a person that took great care of his health. He was also kind of a narcissist.”

On a nearby table were photos of the couple’s daughters, ages 15 and 8, and a statue of Justice blindfolded—whose scales keep falling off.

“We are in this situation because from day one, when they found Alberto dead, they have been doing things badly,” she said. “The investigators did not work based on the hypothesis that this was the worst-possible scenario—that this was a homicide.”

In Argentina’s polarized political environment, Judge Arroyo Salgado’s motives have come under scrutiny. A pro-Kirchner lawmaker, Carlos Kunkel, said she was conducting her investigation to ensure she would collect insurance money for her daughters, an accusation Judge Arroyo Salgado calls “offensive.”

To probe Mr. Nisman’s death, Judge Arroyo Salgado put together her own team of forensic experts, including 84-year-old Osvaldo Raffo, who has performed more than 20,000 autopsies and whom she describes as the Lionel Messi of Argentine forensic science.

Their report says the lack of gunpowder on Mr. Nisman’s fingers and unusual bloodstains on his hand, shirt and around the bathroom indicate he was killed and his body moved before investigators arrived.

“I have no doubt that this wasn’t a suicide,’’ says Judge Arroyo Salgado. “Not because I’m capricious, but because the two forensic doctors told me that this was a homicide.”
Argentine authorities remove the body of Mr. Nisman from his apartment in Buenos Aires on Jan. 19. ENLARGE
Argentine authorities remove the body of Mr. Nisman from his apartment in Buenos Aires on Jan. 19. Photo: Claudio Fanchi/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Judge Arroyo Salgado also has raised questions about the conduct of government investigators, whose work she is entitled to view under Argentine law. Official investigators still haven’t fully examined Mr. Nisman’s computers and cellphones to determine whom he contacted or what might have been on his mind in the moments before he died, she says. Nor, she adds, have they viewed videotapes from his apartment building that could show who visited him during his last hours.

“I initially thought that the bungling of this investigation was due to mere inattention to details,” she says. “But given all that has happened, I think it goes beyond that.”

Ms. Fein, the lead government investigator, has said her sole interest is in determining the truth.

The Kirchner administration has worked to undercut Mr. Nisman’s image, taking out newspaper ads in Argentina and abroad accusing him of trying to destabilize the country.

In March, photos surfaced on the Internet—believed to have come from Mr. Nisman’s phone—showing him vacationing in Cancún with a female friend and cavorting at a party with skimpily dressed young women wielding sex toys. Mrs. Kirchner’s cabinet chief branded the dead prosecutor “shameless” and said he had squandered taxpayers’ money to indulge in a libertine lifestyle.

“They are saying a lot of things about him to hurt his reputation, as if questions about his personal life reduced the value and seriousness of his work,” says Judge Arroyo Salgado.

“The truth is, we’re going through a terrible, horrible time,” she says. “Most of my career I defended the poor in court, and I had an authentic vocation for justice and the law. Now, what I’m realizing is that when you’re trying to investigate things related to those who are politically and economically powerful, you can’t always apply the law and resolve things by the books. I have seen this before, but now I am experiencing it in a different way.”

Judge Arroyo Salgado says she and her daughters have been living in fear. She has been hearing strange noises in her home, where she has installed 11 video cameras. “My younger daughter no longer sleeps alone,” she says.

She says she will pursue her investigation for as long as it takes. Her forensic experts are preparing additional reports and a video presentation detailing how they think Mr. Nisman may have been killed.

At his funeral, the judge read aloud emotional letters written by his daughters. The rabbi who led it says no one who attended believed he committed suicide, which Jewish tradition regards as an offense against the sacredness of life.

In La Tablada, the Jewish cemetery in Buenos Aires, his body now rests a few yards from victims of the 1994 attack.

—María Eugenia Duffard contributed to this article.

Write to Taos Turner at taos.turner@wsj.com and Reed Johnson at Reed.Johnson@wsj.com
139  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Asian American suit against Harvard on: May 16, 2015, 11:30:54 AM
y
Douglas Belkin
Updated May 15, 2015 9:26 p.m. ET
500 COMMENTS

A complaint Friday alleged that Harvard University discriminates against Asian-American applicants by setting a higher bar for admissions than that faced by other groups.

The complaint, filed by a coalition of 64 organizations, says the university has set quotas to keep the numbers of Asian-American students significantly lower than the quality of their applications merits. It cites third-party academic research on the SAT exam showing that Asian-Americans have to score on average about 140 points higher than white students, 270 points higher than Hispanic students and 450 points higher than African-American students to equal their chances of gaining admission to Harvard. The exam is scored on a 2400-point scale.

The complaint was filed with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights.

“Many studies have indicated that Harvard University has been engaged in systemic and continuous discrimination against Asian-Americans during its very subjective ‘Holistic’ college admissions process,” the complaint alleges.

The coalition is seeking a federal investigation and is requesting Harvard “immediately cease and desist from using stereotypes, racial biases and other discriminatory means in evaluating Asian-American applicants.”

Robert Iuliano, Harvard’s general counsel, said the school’s admissions policies are “fully compliant with the law.” The school says its admissions process takes into account a variety of factors besides academics, including applicants’ extracurricular activities and leadership qualities.

“Within its holistic admissions process, and as part of its effort to build a diverse class, Harvard College has demonstrated a strong record of recruiting and admitting Asian American students,” Mr. Iuliano said in a statement. He said the percentage of Asian-American students admitted to the undergraduate school rose to 21% from less than 18% in the past decade.

But the group that filed the complaint said that percentage should be much higher given the increasing numbers of Asian-American students that apply.

“There is a lot of discrimination, and it hurts not just Asian-Americans, it hurts the whole country,” said Yukong Zhao, a 52-year-old Chinese-American author who helped organize the coalition. He said there are longtime stereotypes of Asian applicants’ being “not creative enough or risk-taking enough, but that’s not true. Nearly half of the tech start-ups in the country were started by Asian-Americans. Every one is a great example of creativity, and risk-taking and leadership.”

The complaint argues that elite schools “that use race-neutral admissions” have far higher Asian-American enrollment than Harvard. At California Institute of Technology, for instance, about 40% of undergraduates are Asian-American, about twice that at Harvard.

The allegations come six months after a group called Students for Fair Admissions argued in a federal lawsuit that Harvard uses preferences to reach specific racial balance on its campuses.

Thomas Espenshade, a Princeton University sociologist who has done work on race in college admissions, said the complaint was the result of long-simmering anger in the Asian-American community.

“Up until five or 10 years ago the response has been, ‘Well we just have to work harder,’ ” Mr. Espenshade said. “But over the last decade, more groups are starting to mobilize, saying we don’t have to just accept his, we can push back against it.”

Write to Douglas Belkin at doug.belkin@wsj.com
140  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ/Tavris: How homo economicus went extinct on: May 16, 2015, 11:27:57 AM
Some dangerous thinking here , , ,how do we respond?


By
Carol Tavris
May 15, 2015 4:20 p.m. ET
8 COMMENTS

As a social psychologist, I have long been amused by economists and their curiously delusional notion of the “rational man.” Rational? Where do these folks live? Even 50 years ago, experimental studies were demonstrating that people stay with clearly wrong decisions rather than change them, throw good money after bad, justify failed predictions rather than admit they were wrong, and resist, distort or actively reject information that disputes their beliefs. In recent years, a new field has emerged—“behavioral economics”—to propose an alternative to the rational man of traditional economics. A spate of popular books and empirical studies have been published exploring human irrationality—in decision making, beliefs and actions. Researchers in this field are making up for lost time, or perhaps realizing that they are social psychologists after all.

As the offspring of traditional economics and experimental social psychology, behavioral economics shows remarkable hybrid vigor, and Richard Thaler, one of the new field’s founders, acknowledges its debt to psychological science throughout his highly enjoyable intellectual autobiography, “Misbehaving.” Indeed, his opening aphorism is Vilfredo Pareto’s 1906 claim that “the foundation of political economy and, in general, of every social science, is evidently psychology. A day may come when we shall be able to deduce the laws of social science from the principles of psychology.” That day is here, as Mr. Thaler explains.
Misbehaving

By Richard H. Thaler
Norton, 415 pages, $27.95

For all of his creative career spanning 40 years, Mr. Thaler, who is a professor of behavioral science and economics at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, has been studying “the myriad ways in which people depart from the fictional creatures that populate economic models.” As human beings who arrogantly and often wrongly consider ourselves “sapiens,” we simply don’t match the model of human behavior favored by economists, one that “replaces homo sapiens” (whom Mr. Thaler calls Humans) with “a fictional creature called homo economicus” (whom he calls Econ). “Econs do not have passions; they are cold-blooded optimizers,” he says. “Compared to this fictional world of Econs, Humans do a lot of misbehaving”—thus the book’s title.

The problem, Mr. Thaler argues, is that although economists “hold a virtual monopoly” on giving policy advice, the very premises on which that advice rests are deeply flawed. That is why “economic models make a lot of bad predictions”: some small and trivial, some monumental and devastating. “It is time to stop making excuses,” he admonishes his colleagues. Mr. Thaler calls for an “enriched approach to doing economic research, one that acknowledges the existence and relevance of Humans.” By injecting economics with “good psychology and other social sciences” and by including real people in economic theory, economists will improve predictions of human behavior, make better financial and marketing decisions, and create a field that is “more interesting and more fun than regular economics.” In that way, Mr. Thaler believes, economists will finally produce an “un-dismal science.”

That enriched (and fun) approach is on display in “Misbehaving.” Mr. Thaler’s goal in this conversational, informative book is to “tell the tale of how it all happened, and to explain some of the things we learned along the way.” He tells us that he began having “deviant thoughts” about economic theory as a graduate student in the 1970s—an unsettling experience for a not-yet-professor, comparable to having deviant thoughts about Freudian theory when it dominated clinical psychology.
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The book’s organization is both chronological, describing Mr. Thaler’s discoveries over time and productive collaborations with scholars from other fields, and topical, devoting long sections to findings from four areas of particular interest to him. These are “mental accounting” (with chapters on bargains and sales, sunk costs, budgets and gambling), self-control (the difference between people who plan and people who impulsively act), finance (including the irrationality of people’s behavior in the stock market), and fairness games (why people often prefer fairness to self-interest). In a two-person game in which one person must allocate, say, $50, most recipients would prefer to walk away with nothing than accept an offer they consider “unfair” (such as $5).

Dense with fascinating examples, each of Mr. Thaler’s topical areas tells, in a way, the same story: Traditional economics predicted X; evidence failed to confirm X and indeed often contradicted X; establishment explained away the evidence as an anomaly or miscalculation. For example, by the 1980s, investment guru Benjamin Graham’s classic, decades-old work on “value investing”—“in which the goal is to find securities that are priced below their intrinsic, long-run value”—had become passé. Mr. Thaler explains that Graham’s evidence of the benefits of buying cheap stocks rather than expensive, fashionable “darlings” had become inconsistent with the Efficient Market Hypothesis, which said that value investing simply could not work—not that anyone had bothered to refute Graham’s claim empirically.

Therefore, when the accounting professor Sanjoy Basu published a “thoroughly competent study of value investing that fully supported Graham’s strategy,” in the late 1970s, Mr. Thaler writes, he “had to offer abject apologies for the results” in order to get it accepted for publication; indeed, Mr. Basu “stopped just short of saying ‘I am sorry.’ ” When another economist found that the assumption of market efficiency was not supported by his data, he concluded that there must have been a “pricing model mis-specification.” When Mr. Thaler and Werner De Bondt, his psychology-and-economics graduate student, did their own research, using psychological principles to predict market anomalies that occur because of what they called the market’s “generalized overreaction,” the researched showed why the Efficient Market Hypothesis was wrong. Their paper, ultimately published in 1985, got in through the back door thanks to their having an ally on a major journal—without an apologetic conclusion. “Werner was too principled” to write one, says Mr. Thaler, “and I was too stubborn.”

Time after time Mr. Thaler cheerfully reports how many of his most famous papers in behavioral economics, often written with scholars across enemy lines (that is, noneconomists), were “pure heresy” that “got people’s blood boiling.” One article directly attacked the “core principle underlying the Chicago School’s libertarian beliefs,” namely consumer sovereignty: “the notion that people make good choices, and certainly better choices than anyone else could make for them.” By empirically demonstrating that consumers often do precisely the opposite, because rationality and self-control are bounded by human perceptual distortions, their paper undercut this principle. This was “treacherous, inflammatory territory,” he writes. In 1998, Christine Jolls, then an assistant law professor at Harvard, Cass Sunstein, a law professor at the University of Chicago, and Mr. Thaler published their groundbreaking paper, “A Behavioral Approach to Law and Economics,” which infuriated members of both professions in one blow.

Mr. Sunstein and Mr. Thaler then collaborated on another scandalous claim, that human beings are susceptible to cues in the environment that affect their behavior—a fact that governments and businesses can use to promote healthy behavior and wiser choices. Needless to say, many economists and others were outraged by the implication that the authors were promoting “paternalism” and intervention by government bureaucrats. Not at all, says Mr. Thaler. They were simply noting that “the knee-jerk claim that it is impossible to help anyone make a better decision is clearly undercut by the research.” No matter how often they added that bureaucrats are Humans, with their own biases, their critics wouldn’t listen, even when Mr. Sunstein kept repeating that they were not pro-paternalism but rather “anti-anti-paternalism.” Mr. Thaler preferred the term “libertarian paternalism,” but that didn’t catch on either. Eventually they found the right word to capture the gist of their argument, using it for the title of their book “Nudge.”

Accordingly, the final chapters of “Misbehaving” take on the key issue of nudging: “Could we use behavioral economics to make the world a better place? And could we do so without confirming the deeply held suspicions of our biggest critics: that we were closet socialists, if not communists, who wanted to replace markets with bureaucrats?” Yes, he argues, and yes. Because people make predictable errors, we can create policies and rules that lower the error rate, whether it has to do with reducing driving accidents, getting men who use public urinals to aim better or enticing people to save for retirement—and do it in a way that makes people themselves happier with the results.

Reading this book made me think of (one version of) the classic story of Jascha Heifetz’s American debut at Carnegie Hall in 1917, when he was 16 years old. At intermission, the violinist Mischa Elman turned to his friend, the pianist Leopold Godowsky, wiped his brow and said, “It’s awfully hot in here!” Godowsky replied, “Not for pianists.” Mr. Thaler’s research doesn’t raise my temperature, but that’s because I am not a traditional economist. Pianists will enjoy this book, but violinists need it.

It is long past time to replace Econs with Humans, both in theory and in the practice of prediction. Mr. Thaler believes that, soon enough, all economists will be “behavioral,” and his field will vanish. But the Econ-oriented theorists who have been major players in (mis)predicting the stock market and consumer behavior will—I predict—continue to resist its message. Psychologists, and Mr. Thaler, know why.

—Ms. Tavris is co-author, with Elliot Aronson, of “Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me),” forthcoming in a revised edition in the fall of 2015.
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Roger Brown
Roger Brown 23 minutes ago

"even when Mr. Sunstein kept repeating that they were not pro-paternalism but rather “anti-anti-paternalism.”

Means that They, Sunstein, Thaler, were "paternalistic".

That is, behavioral economics can improve economic choices.

A stretch.


I agree completely that over-reaction and attachment to sunk costs are irrational behaviors that are noneconomic and make many predicitions wrong. More rational actors might use such to make money, however, and then sentient beings on the wrong side of markets should use feedback to improve their rational thinking. Is it not fun to write books that claim everyone is wrong but me?


Irrationality of markets provides ammunition for the statists among us, unfortunately, and since it is not a universal principal (there are people who make perfectly good decisions for themselves and families after all), then what occurs in practice is that a central agent makes "good choices" that turn out to be good for some at the expense of others, a la the ACA.
141  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Romney vs. Holyfield on: May 16, 2015, 10:34:39 AM
http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/mitt-romney-fights-evander-holyfield-salt-lake-city-charity-n359546
142  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Krauthammer analyzes Baraq's newest policy on: May 16, 2015, 02:08:14 AM
http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2015/05/14/krauthammer_obamas_post-summit_presser_was_a_sellout_announcement_gulf_arabs_should_be_terrified.html
143  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Christie's tax proposal on: May 16, 2015, 01:54:42 AM
 May 15, 2015 6:50 p.m. ET
29 COMMENTS

The Washington smart set has all but written off Chris Christie’s presidential chances, but you wouldn’t know it from the way the New Jersey Governor is staking out positions as a conservative reformer. On Tuesday he rolled out a significant tax reform outline as part of a larger agenda for restoring an economic growth rate of 4%.

This follows Mr. Christie’s proposal last month for reforming entitlements for seniors, including an increase in the retirement age and reducing future benefits for the affluent. Perhaps Mr. Christie feels he needs to be out front on policy to overcome the political setbacks in his home state, but his forays are welcome and will help to shape the Republican primary debate if he does formally enter the presidential race.

Mr. Christie puts his policies in the proper context by focusing on faster economic growth as the most important policy goal for the next President. The Obama era has seen the worst recovery since the 1930s despite record federal “stimulus” spending and six years of near-zero interest rates. Without faster growth every problem becomes harder to solve, and the American faith in upward economic mobility will ebb.

The 4% goal is ambitious, and some might say politically injudicious if Mr. Christie happens to be elected. Critics would throw back the target as a rebuke if it wasn’t met. But voters understand it’s not a guarantee but an aspiration, and having such an overriding growth goal makes it easier for a White House to judge every policy by whether it helps meet it. If not, don’t do it.

One of President Obama’s tragic mistakes has been putting social-policy goals—health care, climate change, income redistribution—above faster growth. This has consequences, not least that growth hasn’t exceeded 2.5% in a single year of his Presidency. By contrast, the U.S. averaged more than 4% growth from 1983-1988 and did it again from 1997-2000. Those were periods of rapid poverty reduction and rising wages for all income groups, and we should be able to do it again.

The centerpiece of Mr. Christie’s proposal is a tax reform that would simplify the code by cutting rates in return for fewer deductions. The Governor proposes an individual income tax with three rates and a top rate of 28%. He’d also cut the corporate rate to 25% from 35%, including a one-time rate of 8.75% for businesses that repatriate capital they have parked overseas.

Mr. Christie’s focus on tax rates is crucial for growth and important politically. The Washington fashion these days is to believe that tax reform with substantially lower rates is all but impossible. You know, so 1980s.

But the economic evidence is substantial that lower marginal tax rates provide the biggest growth bang. Mr. Christie’s reform is thus superior to Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s reform plan, which pegs the top individual rate at 35%. Mr. Rubio devotes $1.6 trillion over 10 years to tax credits for families with children, which does nothing for growth.

Mr. Christie tells us he hasn’t decided how to treat dividends and capital gains, which are now taxed at a top rate of 23.8%. But those preferential rates become less important economically if the overall income tax rate is low enough. Mr. Christie also says his reform would be “a net tax reduction, or in the worst case deficit neutral.” But he tells us he’d also want revenue scoring to account for the positive impact on growth “because that’s what happens in the economy when things are going in the right way.” He’s right.

As for deductions, Mr. Christie preserves them for charitable contributions and mortgage interest “at least for a first home.” This is a bow to the popularity of these two deductions among middle-income Americans, though they have little economic justification. The better news is that Mr. Christie says every other deduction would be up for negotiation, including the costly and politically sensitive breaks for state and local taxes and employer-sponsored health insurance.

Mr. Christie’s plan has many other planks, some worthier than others, but as important as the details is how a candidate sells them. One reason Mitt Romney failed in pitching his tax reform in 2012 is that he never seemed to believe it. At some level he internalized the Democratic critique that he lacked credibility because he was rich.

Mr. Christie has never suffered from such self-doubt, and it will be fascinating to see the New Jersey brawler make the populist case for a pro-growth reform. He is putting down a marker for other candidates to meet.
144  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sheriff David Clarke on: May 16, 2015, 01:53:44 AM
https://www.facebook.com/NationalRifleAssociation/videos/10153441495446833/
145  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Desalination efforts in CA on: May 16, 2015, 01:32:30 AM

By
Allysia Finley
May 15, 2015 6:41 p.m. ET
48 COMMENTS

Israel has made the desert bloom, but the task hasn’t always been an easy one. For decades, the country suffered chronic water shortages brought on by intermittent droughts amid rapid population growth—a problem only partly ameliorated by aggressive water pricing and conservation. In 2009, after five consecutive dry winters, the government water authority restricted outdoor gardening and agricultural irrigation.

By the end of this year, Israel will have completed three massive desalination plants in Ashdod, Hadera and Sorek that combined are capable of producing 100 billion gallons of potable water each year from the sea. More such projects are in the works. Next year desalination will provide about half of Israel’s water—not including the roughly 80% of recycled wastewater that goes mainly to agriculture—up from zero in 2004 and about 10% in 2009. The drought ended in 2012, and Israel doesn’t need to worry much about the next one. In a mere five years, desalination has turned a scarce resource into a commodity that may soon be exportable.

On the far side of the world, in another state often portrayed as a promised land of milk and honey, Californians are suffering perhaps the worst drought in a millennium. Desalination to the rescue? Carlos Riva, the CEO of Boston-based Poseidon Water, hopes so. But the same political and regulatory forces that have already exacerbated the state’s water shortage are standing in the way. Mr. Riva’s diplomatic way of putting it: “Water is a simple molecule, but a complex commodity.”

Most of the bureaucratic effort in California is going into cutting consumption. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has turned off the spigot of water trickling from the Sierra Nevadas to farmers in the Central Valley. Gov. Jerry Brown last month ordered urban water agencies to cut usage by 6% to 36% (based on per capita consumption) and threatened $10,000 fines against noncompliant residents and businesses. All this while the untapped Pacific Ocean glitters nearby.

Desalination technology that is “mainstream outside the U.S.,” Mr. Riva says, is proving exasperatingly difficult to bring to thirsty California.

“The water industry is probably one of the last industries that is still held in traditional municipal hands,” Mr. Riva notes. As a result, the “market is ultraconservative because there’s nobody in the municipalities that has any motivation to take the risk with new technology.”

Poseidon does have a $1 billion desalination plant slated to open this fall in Carlsbad, north of San Diego. Upon completion it will be the largest in North America, capable of producing 54 million gallons of water each day. Construction began in 2013, but first Poseidon spent six years battling 14 environmental lawsuits.

For instance, the Surfrider Foundation charged that the plant’s open-ocean intakes might harm marine life, though a judge ruled that Poseidon had reasonably mitigated the threat. Mr. Riva says the intakes “entrain two to three fish eggs or larvae” for every thousand gallons of water sucked in. “Not to make value judgments about fish, but these aren’t from any protected species,” Mr. Riva says. “They’re anchovies and things like that.” He adds that environmentalists believe that “all fish life is precious, and you have to do everything to save it.”

Obtaining the dozen or so permits required to build the plant was vexing as well, since regulatory authority over water in California is spread among state, federal and local agencies—the Bureau of Reclamation, the State Water Resource Control Board and the California Coastal Commission, to name a few.

“Because there are multiple agencies,” says Mr. Riva, there are “multiple opportunities for intervenors to delay.” The CEO is careful in his choice of words to avoid giving offense. However, what he appears to mean is that environmental obstructionists waged war on numerous fronts. Not totally without success, either: To obtain final approval from the Coastal Commission, Poseidon had to agree to restore 66 acres of wetlands and buy renewable energy credits—green indulgences.

Urged on by the Surfriders, the Coastal Commission is now gumming up Poseidon’s plans to build a second plant, which has been in the planning stages for 15 years, south of Los Angeles in Huntington Beach. Though Poseidon had obtained almost all required government permits by 2012, Mr. Riva says, the commission’s approval is pending the results of an independent panel convened to study alternatives to open intakes that would better protect fish eggs and larvae. Poseidon has proposed adding one-millimeter screens, which seems to be the simplest and most cost-effective strategy.

The panel concluded after its first phase, Mr. Riva says, that the only other option is what’s called a seabed infiltration gallery, built about 1,000 feet offshore. He explains: “You build these copper dams, then excavate the seabed, put in these drains and pipes, and put other filters on top of that, and then pipe the water back to shore.” While technically feasible, it’s a complicated engineering feat, so now the panel is examining the environmental impact and economic practicability.

Building an infiltration gallery, Mr. Riva says, would take five to seven years and cost multiple times the price of the rest of the facility—so he expects the review will show it isn’t doable. But could the commission be using this process to deal the Huntington Beach project death by regulatory review? “If people just don’t want it, put us out of misery,” he quips.

Environmentalists are also howling that desalination is too energy-intensive. Mr. Riva thinks these complaints are bogus: “We use less energy than one of the data centers that are being built, and nobody claims that they are somehow immoral.” Plus, as he points out, the only reason anybody is even discussing desalination in California now is because it is becoming so much more efficient, thanks to technological breakthroughs like energy-recovery systems, which conserve energy the way hybrid cars do. The Carlsbad plant will use less than half as much electricity per unit of water produced as desalination plants did in the 1980s.

Such improvements are fueled by the free market. “The operators are driven to find ways to reduce the energy because that increases the profitability of these projects,” Mr. Riva says, adding that Poseidon has a profit motive to implement more-efficient filters, pumps and control systems that will reduce the cost of water—an incentive the government doesn’t have.

Mr. Riva, who used to run a biofuels company, says he considers himself an environmentalist. “But I think the concept of environmentalism has been hijacked by extreme views,” he says. “We’re bending over backwards to protect the environment here.”

Meantime, local residents and politicians in San Diego and Orange County have voiced ostensibly more justifiable concerns about desalination’s high costs. Poseidon is a closely held private company but specializes in public-private partnerships. As Mr. Riva explains, “our model is to say: We will take on the risk of development, financing, building and operation, and in exchange you take the market risk of buying our water.” This isn’t too different from how public utilities contract for electric generation.

Under the terms of the purchase agreement, the desalinated water will cost San Diegans between $2,014 and $2,257 per acre foot (roughly 0.6 to 0.7 cents per gallon), or about twice as much as importing water from, say, the Sierra Nevadas. “We have a 30-year contract,” Mr. Riva rejoins. “Depending on escalation rates of the imported water and CPI [consumer-price index], then the expectation is that sometime in the middle of the first decade, our water will be less expensive. There will be a crossover point.”

Even so, desalinated water from Carlsbad will cost more than twice as much per unit as it does in Israel. There are multiple reasons for this. Electricity is more expensive in California than in Israel and most of the rest of the U.S. because of a state mandate requiring that pricey renewables make up a third of electric generation by 2020. Labor is more expensive in California, too. Cumbersome regulatory requirements jack up construction costs. Israel’s Sorek plant will produce about three times as much water as the Carlsbad facility yet cost half as much to build. Both plants were designed by the same company: Israel Desalination Enterprises (IDE) Technologies.

Poseidon’s Carlsbad desalination plant will augment the San Diego region’s water supply by about 7% while increasing customers’ bills by $5 to $7 a month. Although residents will have to pay for the additional supply even when they don’t need it, Mr. Riva asserts that the “reliability justifies a premium.” That is, many San Diegans may consider it worth paying a bit more per month to keep their verdant yards during droughts—or have a backup water supply if an earthquake destroys canals or aqueducts that import water from the north.

‘We’re talking about one of the only things that is really necessary for life. Your kids may think their phone is, but it’s not,” he says. “This is an absolute necessity in San Diego, which is a desert for life.”

The same is true of California as a whole. More than a dozen desalination projects have been proposed along the coast, but prospective developers are waiting for Poseidon to run the regulatory gantlet before moving ahead. Meanwhile, Mr. Riva says Poseidon is considering developing projects in Texas where water is also scarce—and, one presumes, where the governmental burden is lighter and environmentalists are fewer. If Poseidon can make desalination work in California, it can work anywhere.

Ms. Finley is an editorial writer for the Journal.



146  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Desalination efforts in CA on: May 16, 2015, 01:31:05 AM

By
Allysia Finley
May 15, 2015 6:41 p.m. ET
48 COMMENTS

Israel has made the desert bloom, but the task hasn’t always been an easy one. For decades, the country suffered chronic water shortages brought on by intermittent droughts amid rapid population growth—a problem only partly ameliorated by aggressive water pricing and conservation. In 2009, after five consecutive dry winters, the government water authority restricted outdoor gardening and agricultural irrigation.

By the end of this year, Israel will have completed three massive desalination plants in Ashdod, Hadera and Sorek that combined are capable of producing 100 billion gallons of potable water each year from the sea. More such projects are in the works. Next year desalination will provide about half of Israel’s water—not including the roughly 80% of recycled wastewater that goes mainly to agriculture—up from zero in 2004 and about 10% in 2009. The drought ended in 2012, and Israel doesn’t need to worry much about the next one. In a mere five years, desalination has turned a scarce resource into a commodity that may soon be exportable.

On the far side of the world, in another state often portrayed as a promised land of milk and honey, Californians are suffering perhaps the worst drought in a millennium. Desalination to the rescue? Carlos Riva, the CEO of Boston-based Poseidon Water, hopes so. But the same political and regulatory forces that have already exacerbated the state’s water shortage are standing in the way. Mr. Riva’s diplomatic way of putting it: “Water is a simple molecule, but a complex commodity.”

Most of the bureaucratic effort in California is going into cutting consumption. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has turned off the spigot of water trickling from the Sierra Nevadas to farmers in the Central Valley. Gov. Jerry Brown last month ordered urban water agencies to cut usage by 6% to 36% (based on per capita consumption) and threatened $10,000 fines against noncompliant residents and businesses. All this while the untapped Pacific Ocean glitters nearby.

Desalination technology that is “mainstream outside the U.S.,” Mr. Riva says, is proving exasperatingly difficult to bring to thirsty California.

“The water industry is probably one of the last industries that is still held in traditional municipal hands,” Mr. Riva notes. As a result, the “market is ultraconservative because there’s nobody in the municipalities that has any motivation to take the risk with new technology.”

Poseidon does have a $1 billion desalination plant slated to open this fall in Carlsbad, north of San Diego. Upon completion it will be the largest in North America, capable of producing 54 million gallons of water each day. Construction began in 2013, but first Poseidon spent six years battling 14 environmental lawsuits.

For instance, the Surfrider Foundation charged that the plant’s open-ocean intakes might harm marine life, though a judge ruled that Poseidon had reasonably mitigated the threat. Mr. Riva says the intakes “entrain two to three fish eggs or larvae” for every thousand gallons of water sucked in. “Not to make value judgments about fish, but these aren’t from any protected species,” Mr. Riva says. “They’re anchovies and things like that.” He adds that environmentalists believe that “all fish life is precious, and you have to do everything to save it.”

Obtaining the dozen or so permits required to build the plant was vexing as well, since regulatory authority over water in California is spread among state, federal and local agencies—the Bureau of Reclamation, the State Water Resource Control Board and the California Coastal Commission, to name a few.

“Because there are multiple agencies,” says Mr. Riva, there are “multiple opportunities for intervenors to delay.” The CEO is careful in his choice of words to avoid giving offense. However, what he appears to mean is that environmental obstructionists waged war on numerous fronts. Not totally without success, either: To obtain final approval from the Coastal Commission, Poseidon had to agree to restore 66 acres of wetlands and buy renewable energy credits—green indulgences.

Urged on by the Surfriders, the Coastal Commission is now gumming up Poseidon’s plans to build a second plant, which has been in the planning stages for 15 years, south of Los Angeles in Huntington Beach. Though Poseidon had obtained almost all required government permits by 2012, Mr. Riva says, the commission’s approval is pending the results of an independent panel convened to study alternatives to open intakes that would better protect fish eggs and larvae. Poseidon has proposed adding one-millimeter screens, which seems to be the simplest and most cost-effective strategy.

The panel concluded after its first phase, Mr. Riva says, that the only other option is what’s called a seabed infiltration gallery, built about 1,000 feet offshore. He explains: “You build these copper dams, then excavate the seabed, put in these drains and pipes, and put other filters on top of that, and then pipe the water back to shore.” While technically feasible, it’s a complicated engineering feat, so now the panel is examining the environmental impact and economic practicability.

Building an infiltration gallery, Mr. Riva says, would take five to seven years and cost multiple times the price of the rest of the facility—so he expects the review will show it isn’t doable. But could the commission be using this process to deal the Huntington Beach project death by regulatory review? “If people just don’t want it, put us out of misery,” he quips.

Environmentalists are also howling that desalination is too energy-intensive. Mr. Riva thinks these complaints are bogus: “We use less energy than one of the data centers that are being built, and nobody claims that they are somehow immoral.” Plus, as he points out, the only reason anybody is even discussing desalination in California now is because it is becoming so much more efficient, thanks to technological breakthroughs like energy-recovery systems, which conserve energy the way hybrid cars do. The Carlsbad plant will use less than half as much electricity per unit of water produced as desalination plants did in the 1980s.

Such improvements are fueled by the free market. “The operators are driven to find ways to reduce the energy because that increases the profitability of these projects,” Mr. Riva says, adding that Poseidon has a profit motive to implement more-efficient filters, pumps and control systems that will reduce the cost of water—an incentive the government doesn’t have.

Mr. Riva, who used to run a biofuels company, says he considers himself an environmentalist. “But I think the concept of environmentalism has been hijacked by extreme views,” he says. “We’re bending over backwards to protect the environment here.”

Meantime, local residents and politicians in San Diego and Orange County have voiced ostensibly more justifiable concerns about desalination’s high costs. Poseidon is a closely held private company but specializes in public-private partnerships. As Mr. Riva explains, “our model is to say: We will take on the risk of development, financing, building and operation, and in exchange you take the market risk of buying our water.” This isn’t too different from how public utilities contract for electric generation.

Under the terms of the purchase agreement, the desalinated water will cost San Diegans between $2,014 and $2,257 per acre foot (roughly 0.6 to 0.7 cents per gallon), or about twice as much as importing water from, say, the Sierra Nevadas. “We have a 30-year contract,” Mr. Riva rejoins. “Depending on escalation rates of the imported water and CPI [consumer-price index], then the expectation is that sometime in the middle of the first decade, our water will be less expensive. There will be a crossover point.”

Even so, desalinated water from Carlsbad will cost more than twice as much per unit as it does in Israel. There are multiple reasons for this. Electricity is more expensive in California than in Israel and most of the rest of the U.S. because of a state mandate requiring that pricey renewables make up a third of electric generation by 2020. Labor is more expensive in California, too. Cumbersome regulatory requirements jack up construction costs. Israel’s Sorek plant will produce about three times as much water as the Carlsbad facility yet cost half as much to build. Both plants were designed by the same company: Israel Desalination Enterprises (IDE) Technologies.

Poseidon’s Carlsbad desalination plant will augment the San Diego region’s water supply by about 7% while increasing customers’ bills by $5 to $7 a month. Although residents will have to pay for the additional supply even when they don’t need it, Mr. Riva asserts that the “reliability justifies a premium.” That is, many San Diegans may consider it worth paying a bit more per month to keep their verdant yards during droughts—or have a backup water supply if an earthquake destroys canals or aqueducts that import water from the north.

‘We’re talking about one of the only things that is really necessary for life. Your kids may think their phone is, but it’s not,” he says. “This is an absolute necessity in San Diego, which is a desert for life.”

The same is true of California as a whole. More than a dozen desalination projects have been proposed along the coast, but prospective developers are waiting for Poseidon to run the regulatory gantlet before moving ahead. Meanwhile, Mr. Riva says Poseidon is considering developing projects in Texas where water is also scarce—and, one presumes, where the governmental burden is lighter and environmentalists are fewer. If Poseidon can make desalination work in California, it can work anywhere.

Ms. Finley is an editorial writer for the Journal.
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147  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Giant cross in Pakistan on: May 16, 2015, 01:16:11 AM
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148  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Newt on The Collapse of Baltimore on: May 15, 2015, 08:44:15 PM
The Collapse of Baltimore City

Fact: the last Republican city council member in Baltimore City left office in 1942.
That is 73 years of solid Democrat city councils.

Fact: the last Republican mayor of Baltimore City left office in 1967.
That is 48 years of unbroken control of the mayor's office.

Fact: the Maryland Senate is currently 33 Democrats to 14 Republicans.

Fact: the Maryland House is currently 90 Democrats to 50 Republicans.

Fact: the last time Republicans held both the Maryland Senate and the Maryland House of Delegates was 1897.

Fact: the last time Republicans held even one chamber of the Maryland General Assembly--the House--was 1917.
That is unbroken Democrat control of the Maryland legislature since 1918--or nearly a century of Democrat control.

Fact: 7 out of 8 members of the Maryland delegation in the U.S. House are Democrats.

Fact: Last Republican U.S. Senator from Maryland was elected in 1980.

Fact: it was Baltimore’s Democrat mayor, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who said:
“I’ve made it very clear that I work with the police and instructed them to do everything that they could to make sure that the protesters were able to exercise their right to free speech. It's a very delicate balancing act. Because while we tried to make sure that they were protected from the cars and other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well. And we worked very hard to keep that balance and to put ourselves in the best position to de-escalate."

This ”space to destroy” policy led to riots which resulted in:
•   130 police officers injured
•   More than 350 businesses damaged (increasing inner-city unemployment)
•   15 pharmacies damaged (limiting inner-city residents’ access to medicine)
•   Korean American businesses targeted while gangs protected businesses owned by African Americans
•   144 vehicle fires
•   Firehoses cut as firemen fought fires

The collapse of order has a continuing effect. There has been a drastic increase in shootings and homicides in Baltimore since April 27. More than 50 people have been shot. At least 10 have been shot and four killed since Saturday May 9. Nonfatal shootings are up nearly 50 percent.
All of this happened under the leadership of a Democrat mayor who was worried more about the rioters’ free speech than about the safety, protection, and livelihoods of innocent Baltimoreans.

The first duty of government is to protect the innocent and the weak from predators and violence. Once again a Democrat favored the violent over the victims.
The protesters charge that the police are racist.

Fact: More than half of the Baltimore City police force is minority.

Fact: four of the six top commanders are African American or Hispanic.

Fact: half of the police officers being prosecuted are African American.

The protesters point to poverty--and they’re right. Poverty has devastated minority communities. But it is left-wing policies implemented by Democrats that have created destructive incentives and denied opportunity to generations of young people.

Fact: Baltimore City spends $17,329 per student, and its unionized, bureaucratic schools fail.
As Terence Jeffrey of CNS News quotes a lawyer for Freddie Gray’s family as saying, "The education system has failed them." The lawyer is right. "These kids have had bad experiences in school," he said.

Jeffrey outlines the absolute failure of the unionized bureaucratic Baltimore City school system: 84% of eighth graders score below grade level in reading. 87% scored below grade level in math.

For $17,000 a year, Baltimore City students could get much better educations at Catholic schools, private schools or even with an organized home schooling program (8 students could pool $120,000 a year to hire a personal tutor as was done when Thomas Jefferson was young).

Amazingly, as Archbishop of Baltimore William Lori points out, the Catholic schools cost $6,000 a year and have a 99 percent graduation rate. Yet the Democrats are committed to locking poor children out of those schools if it takes a dime away from funds for failing, unionized public schools.

With school choice policies, we could save children's lives while saving money. Instead the left wing unions and bureaucracies ruthlessly exploit children, ruining their lives while the Democratic leadership in the Maryland House blocks school choice bills that would give children a chance to attend better schools and would force schools to compete for students by actually being good schools.

There is no greater example of the relentless dishonesty of modern Democrats than their willingness to destroy children's lives while blaming others. President Obama could quit blaming Fox News and simply demand school choice (which of course he opposes) and he would radically improve the lives of millions of trapped poor children.
Of course, it is Democrats who control the teachers union that traps Baltimore City's children in schools that fail and ruin their lives. They do so on behalf of the unionized bureaucratic political machine that controls the city.

Poverty in general has been institutionalized by the destructive ideological biases of Democrat President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. On May 22,1964 President Johnson said, "Our society will never be great until our cities are great. Today the frontier of imagination and innovation is inside those cities and not beyond their borders."
Tragically, his policies trapped people in dependency, killed small businesses in favor of bureaucracy, and favored unionized workers over children. The result has been a 50-year disaster which no liberal Democrat is prepared to analyze honestly.

Charles Murray's classic study of destructive welfare policies, Losing Ground, and Marvin Olasky's decisive repudiation of the idealistic premises of big government liberalism’s approach to poverty, The Tragedy of American Compassion, explain decisively the failure of the Baltimore City Democrats. Their values, principles and organizations doom their efforts to failure.

A sound program has to start with safety and work.

That policy has to begin with favoring public safety and small business.

All Americans should care enough about their fellow citizens trapped with bad leadership, bad government, selfish bureaucrats, and misleading news media. All of us should care about creating a much better future for poor Americans.

That future has to start with a fact-based analysis of how we got here and who has been responsible.

In Baltimore City, the answer is Democrat officials who for a half-century have crippled and weakened what was once a great and vibrant city.
In future weeks, I will outline a strategy for a renaissance in Baltimore City.

Your Friend,
Newt
149  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bladeless wind turbines on: May 15, 2015, 04:18:22 PM
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150  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-China (& Japan, South China Sea-- Vietnam, Philippines, etc) on: May 15, 2015, 03:18:10 PM
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